A CRITICAL incident has been declared at Great Western Hospital due to the sharp increase in the number of Covid patients.

The hospital was treating 159 Covid patients yesterday – up from 145 on Wednesday, January 13 – and has warned that these numbers are continuing to climb.

The trust is looking at bringing extra staff from across the region to ease the pressure.

A GWH spokesperson said: “Following increased pressure on Great Western Hospital, the Trust has declared a critical incident today.

“This is due to a large number of patients on site who are receiving care for Covid-19, currently at 159 confirmed and suspected, as well as issues being faced by local ambulance crews waiting a long time to handover patients to our emergency department.

“We are working closely with our partners across the region to look at extra staffing capacity to assist with the sheer numbers of patients needing care, as well as how we can speed up discharges for those who are ready to go home. If a loved one needs collecting from the hospital, please do so as quickly as possible.”

The NHS is asking patients to call 111 as a first priority if they need medical help.

The spokesperson added: “Please continue to do your bit to slow the spread of infection by washing your hands, covering your face and making space.”

Three new deaths were recorded at Great Western Hospital yesterday, and 127 tested positive for coronavirus in Swindon.

A total of 1,564 coronavirus deaths were confirmed across the UK on Tuesday.

Swindon Borough Council’s director of public health Steve Maddern said: “The escalating situation at Great Western Hospital is a stark reminder of how quickly our local health services can reach breaking point under the strain of Covid-19.

“Our colleagues at the hospital are doing an amazing job treating Covid-19 patients here in Swindon but, as we have been saying for some time, we all have a responsibility to protect ourselves and stop the transmission of Covid-19 within our communities.

“Every choice we make to follow the guidelines or not has a direct and indirect impact on the hospital and the communities around us.

“Please stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.”

Sharon Keene, who is a regulatory and compliance manager at the GWH, said workers at GWH are facing “extreme pressures” during the pandemic.

She said: “We know that Covid-19 can make people very unwell and have seen the effects of this across our organisation – both from the number of patients admitted with severe health concerns and for the staff treating them.

“It is really important for these people, as well as for our own friends and families, that everybody does their bit to slow the spread of infection.

“It’s been a really difficult year and our staff have faced extreme pressures as our services have been tested in ways we’ve never seen before.”

As a Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, Sharon has supported staff who have felt concerned and overwhelmed.

She added: “It has been such a challenging year, and we have all worked in new and completely unknown ways to ensure every patient who has come through our doors this year has received the care they need.”

North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson said: “It is on all of us to do everything we can to support the phenomenal efforts of our frontline health workers in these unprecedented times. 

“Collectively our sacrifices to follow the rules and guidelines can and will make the difference – giving us the breathing space to deliver our rapid vaccination roll-out and ultimately bring us back to normality.”

GWH’s chief executive Kevin McNamara and Mr Maddern will be hosting a Facebook live session today at 5pm, giving members of the public a chance to ask their questions.

 For further information visit facebook.com/SwindonBoroughCouncil