15 Ambulances queueing at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital – the reality of the crisis in Birmingham – Birmingham Live

Ambulances lined up in the rain last night, most with poorly patients on board, in a stark sign of the mounting pressure on Birmingham’s biggest hospital.

The strain of rapidly rising Coronavirus cases is beginning to tell – with at least 50 new patients now arriving daily at the Queen Elizabeth, Heartlands and Good Hope hospitals.

In this picture, fifteen ambulances are parked up outside the emergency department of the QE – and it was reported that some had been waiting in excess of three hours to offload.

The hospital – one of the biggest in the country, with the most ITU beds anywhere – is full.

Dr Punith Kempegowda’s tweet showing ambulances queued up outside the Queen Elizabeth Hospital
(Image: Dr Punith Kempegowda)

The picture was taken last night (Tuesday) by medic Dr Punith Kempegowda, a specialist registrar at the hospital, and tweeted out.

The image – and the underlying pressure it indicates – adds to a mounting expectation that the region must be placed into stricter Tier 4 restrictions at least when Health Secretary Matt Hancock addresses the Commons this afternoon.

Anything less, say experts, will endanger more lives.

The doctor’s tweet, posted at 8.30pm, shows 15 West Midlands Ambulances lined up, all but one with their back doors to the A&E entrance doors.

His tweet reads: “Just getting out of a&e after another loooooooong day.. Almost all these ambulances are waiting with patients inside them. For more than 3 hours. Because there’s no place in hospital to bring them in.”

The doctor went on to add: “Largest hospital in Birmingham. With the highest number of ICU beds in the Western Europe. And is the regional referral centre for #covid19. Its currently full.”

Latest admissions data reveals the number of people in hospitals with Coronavirus across the UK is now HIGHER than during the horrific first wave peak in April.

Locally, some 1,211 people with coronavirus were in hospital beds in Birmingham and the Black Country on December 22 – the most recent data showing local breakdowns.

Looking at the UHB hospitals, there were 1,712 beds occupied by non Covid patients, and 434 by patients with Coronavirus, on December 22. Another 43 intensive care beds had Coronavirus patients.

This is on a par with a recent high, in mid November, when the hospitals were under severe strain, as we reported at the time.

The impact appeared to plateau and then drop slightly – but we understand the numbers have increased at a fairly dramatic rate over the Christmas period.

There have been rising infections in the community and the dreaded post Christmas spike expected to drive up admissions further into the new year.

Hospital bosses have said around 25-30% of those admitted to hospital with the virus end up dying.

The waiting ambulances shows that tough measures introduced in October and November by the UHB Trust, designed to reduce A&E waits and keep bays only for the most critically ill, have not had the desired impact.

Many elective operations also remain on hold.

In response to our inquiries, the University Hospitals Birmingham, which runs the QE, said this morning: “Teams across our three emergency departments are working incredibly hard to ensure patients receive appropriate and safe care.

“Additional seasonal pressures mean around 800 patients are attending our emergency departments each day – in addition to the significant challenges posed by coronavirus.”

We had tried in vain yesterday to speak to someone in the leadership teams at University Hospitals Birmingham and Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group to ask for more information about the state of local health services, amid mounting concern from residents and medics.

All such requests these days have to be sent to NHS England’s media chiefs for their approval as part of their ‘command and control’ communications strategy – with even requests for simple information, on-day data or comments usually rebuffed.

It’s not just journalists expressing alarm about the lack of transparency – medics and nurses too are making their concerns about this silence known.

Dr David Nicholl, a highly respected consultant working in Birmingham and Sandwell, spoke out yesterday to BirminghamLive of the toll of the disease and his fury over continued misinformation.

He was reduced to tears of frustration as he described how a colleague was fighting for life on a ventilator, while commentators were sharing information downplaying the crisis.

Last night he added his voice to the clamour for transparency over what is happening in hospitals and GP surgeries, tweeting: All Trusts have to run their comms through NHS England….Personal view….THIS IS AN INSANE COMMS STRATEGY in a pandemic. Most Trusts have excellent comms people…let them do their job!”

Figures from NHS England showed there were 21,787 patients in NHS hospitals in England as of 8am on Tuesday, compared with 20,426 on Monday, and 18,974 at the first wave peak on April 12.

Share your experiences of the current situation in our NHS hospitals – good and bad – by emailing jane.haynes@reachplc.com