GREAT Western Hospital is facing a record number of patients requiring urgent care and treatment.

Those with Covid-19 symptoms is slowly rising into double digits after weeks of staying in low single figures throughout May and June, but a surge in people seeking medical attention for other maladies is keeping medics busier.

Hospital boss Kevin McNamara said that this sudden rise along with many staff having to self-isolate and the possibility of intensive care overflowing again is causing him a lot of concern and worry.

In June 2018, 9,000 patients attended ‘front door’ hospital services. This figure rose to 9,500 in June 2019, dipped to around 7,000 during lockdown - and then soared to around 11,000 last month.

Mr McNamara said: “We are seeing a record level of people attending our emergency department and urgent care centre which has far out-stripped where we were pre-Covid - and we were already extremely busy there.

“That’s a real worry for us because there does not seem to be any let-up in that demand. That will have an impact on [our operations backlog] if it continues to increase.

“Throughout June and July, we have routinely broken the daily record, which is a worry for patients waiting longer to be seen and the wellbeing of our staff who have worked incredibly hard over the pandemic and are now dealing with these sorts of challenges.

“It feels like a fizzy pop bottle has had the top taken off. We were expecting something like this, but not at the level we’re seeing and hopefully there will be a stabilisation in demand.”

As for patients with Covid, Mr McNamara recalled the stressful winter when the hospital’s ICU exceeded its maximum capacity of four Covid patient beds and many elective operations had to be cancelled to look after the influx of 170 patients requiring intensive care.

Though he suggested this emergency situation is unlikely to repeat itself in the near future and the immense waiting list backlog is being gradually worked through, there is still some cause for concern.

Mr McNamara added: “Fortunately, we are not seeing those [Covid-related admissions] translating into intensive care patients - but that remains a concern.

“Because of the much smaller bed base we have for intensive care, it would not take many patients to be admitted before we have to taking over theatres to accommodate these patients.

“This impacts on our operations, particularly for patients who have been waiting a very long time for care since the start of the pandemic.

“Trying to balance Covid activity with our elective recovery is really important. And we are seeing a high number of staff having to isolate because of the NHS app, which is creating real challenges in some of our services.

“My concern is it won’t just be about true Covid admissions but about how many staff we’ve got available to care because that is a safety issue as well.”

Most people with coronavirus symptoms at GWH are aged between 30 and 55, most have not been vaccinated but some have.

The vaccine is having a big impact on keeping hospital admissions down but it is still important to reduce the risk of catching the disease even further, he said.

As lockdown restrictions ease further today, the hospital is braced for another rise in admissions as case rates increase rapidly, though how many of those cases will become hospital admissions is a big uncertainty.

The winter is expected to be “tricky” as doctors are expectring to deal with more flu patients than last year now that people are mixing more, on top of seeing Covid patients and other illnesses.