Mandatory face masks have been brought back in Derby, Chesterfield and Burton’s hospitals – just weeks after Covid rules were eased – following a spike in Covid-19 inpatients.
On June 20, the University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust announced that face masks would no longer be mandatory in non-clinical areas – such as corridors, restaurants and reception areas.
On June 24, Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust announced the same policy.
However, just two weeks later, both trusts have now announced that wearing a face mask anywhere within the hospital – as a patient, visitor or staff member – is once again mandatory.
This is due to a spike in Covid-19 inpatient numbers at both organisations – with the three sites now caring for more than 200 patients with the virus.
Royal Derby Hospital staff are now treating 111 Covid-19 patients – one of which is in intensive care – while Queen’s Hospital in Burton has 50 patients with the virus.
Meanwhile, Chesterfield Royal Hospital staff are currently treating 44 Covid-19 patients
Across the Derby and Burton areas, this is the equivalent of seven wards’ worth of patients, which is placing pressure on a health system that is already under immense strain after more than two years of pandemic-related issues – including staff burnout and staggering waiting list backlog.
UHDB says that the majority of patients in its hospitals with Covid-19 were admitted due to other conditions – not due to the virus itself.
The trust says the virus was detected “incidentally” through routine testing on admission.
In the 2020 Covid peaks, our hospitals were treating in excess of 670 Covid patients, with dozens in intensive care. The key difference has been widespread vaccination and improved treatment options and understanding of the virus.
The current 205 patients across Derby, Chesterfield and Burton is substantially higher than in January, when the hospitals were treating nearly 100 patients combined.
It is also significantly more than this time last year, when our hospitals were treating 20 Covid-19 patients combined.
Looking at community case levels, there have been around 2,000 new cases across Derby and Derbyshire in the past week, compared to 2,400 this time last year.
This is dwarfed by the 4,500 a week the county and city were recording in a week in January – more than double the case volume.
Looking at Covid-19 deaths, there have been six Derbyshire deaths caused by the virus in the most recent week compared to this time last year when one Covid-caused death was recorded.
This compares to 21 Covid deaths across Derbyshire in this year’s January peak.
Dr Magnus Harrison, interim chief executive at the Derby and Burton trust, said: “In recent weeks, we have seen cases of Covid-19 increasing both in our communities and in our hospitals, and we are now caring for around 160 patients who have tested positive – the equivalent of seven wards.
“In light of this, we have today reintroduced mandatory wearing of face masks in all areas of our hospitals in order to keep our colleagues, patients and visitors safe.
“We appreciate this may be disappointing to some, but we will continue to keep our infection control measures under constant review with safety as our main priority.
“While our current level of patients who have tested positive for Covid-19 is not as high as we have seen in previous waves, this still adds significant pressure to our services at a time.
“The extra demand Covid-19 places on our services also impacts those who are waiting for planned procedures, but our amazing staff continue to find new and different ways of working to reduce the numbers of those who have been waiting for longer than we would like for their procedures.
“I would like to once again thank colleagues for continuing to keep everyone safe and for their continued compassion and dedication to our patients during what has been, and continues to be, an extremely challenging period.”
Announcing the reintroduction of mandatory face masks today (July 6) the trust said the move was in response to “the increase in infection rates in our communities and number of Covid-19 patients being treated in our hospitals”.
Garry Marsh, executive chief nurse at the trust, said: “We appreciate this may be disappointing for some of you, but our priority is to keep our colleagues, patients and visitors safe.
“The recently updated national guidance now means that individual NHS organisations are expected to determine their Infection Prevention Control (IPC) requirements at a local level. The decision has been made after careful monitoring and discussions with our IPC team and microbiologists. We will continue to review the levels of Covid-19 and other respiratory infections in our hospitals and in the communities we serve and will respond to national guidance accordingly.”
Visiting restrictions at the trust have not been changed.
A spokesperson for the Chesterfield Royal Hospital trust announced today: “Everybody at the trust will be asked to wear a surgical facemask – this is in all areas including retail outlets, eating areas, in meeting places and in corridors.
“This decision has been taken due to an increase in Covid cases in our community and in our hospital admissions. The decision is in line with many trusts across our region and nationally who have already made this change.
“We are reinstating our mask stations at entrances to the site, meaning surgical masks will be freely available at entrances and on wards and departments for anyone.”
Dr Hal Spencer, chief executive at the Chesterfield trust, said: “This is a disappointing development but it is important that we continue to keep the health and wellbeing of everybody as our top priority. We are incredibly grateful for the continued support of our local community and ask that anyone coming onto site wears a mask. We will of course keep the situation under review and update across our channels as things develop.”
The trust says the measure is “an immediate, hopefully temporary and precautionary measure, which we will hope to review at the earliest opportunity”.