Ipswich Hospital sees queues of 20 ambulances as Covid rates soar

Around 20 ambulances were observed queueing outside Ipswich hospital's A&E department on Wednesday.

Around 20 ambulances were observed queueing outside Ipswich hospital's A&E department on Wednesday. Chief Executive Nick Hulme says rising Covid cases are to blame. - Credit: Contributed

Ipswich Hospital is facing a “really big logistical challenge,” an NHS boss has said, as photographs show around 20 ambulances queuing outside the A&E department on Wednesday. 

The reason for this backlog is the difficulties staff face in keeping Covid patients isolated, said Nick Hulme, chief executive of East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust (ESNEFT). 

Speaking to BBC Radio Suffolk, he described the pressure staff were under to keep patients who had tested positive for Covid isolated, limiting ward capacity. 

A whole ward could be affected by a positive case, he said, with the beds around the patient unable to be occupied. 

Long queues of ambulances were observed outside the A&E department at Ipswich hospital.

Long queues of ambulances were observed outside the A&E department at Ipswich hospital. - Credit: Contributed

Further difficulties were faced when discharging patients if they still had Covid, as residential and nursing homes were reticent about allowing residents back if they still had the virus. 

Rising Covid rates, he said, have caused difficulties in both Ipswich and Colchester hospitals. 

On March 29, there were 267 patients with Covid in ESNEFT hospitals. Ten patients required a mechanical ventilator to help them breathe. 

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This is an increase of 63 from the week before. 

However, the data did not reveal how many patients were being treated primarily for Covid, or for another condition. 

Meanwhile, the Ipswich district has recorded 1,303 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days leading to March 26. In the East Suffolk district, there were 1,129 cases per 100,000 people. 

Both figures are significantly higher than the national average of 909.  

Stuart Keeble, Suffolk County Council’s public health director, has expressed concern at the rising transmission rates.  

Speaking last week, he said: “The recent increase in Covid cases is a reminder to us all that the pandemic is not over, and I am understandably concerned about rising transmission rates as a result of the highly infectious Omicron variant and our move to living with Covid.” 

Mr Hulme said that staff were working to create capacity on wards. 

He said: "It's a really big logistical challenge, but everyone is working incredibly hard to see how we can fix this problem."