By Anne North
The latest NHS data on hospital admissions shows that Cornwall is still coping remarkably well with the recent upsurge in Covid-19 infections.
The data, published yesterday (Thursday) reveals there were no Covid-19 patients at the Royal Cornwall Hospital by 1st October and only one at the Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust palliative care unit at Helston.
You can download the data here: Covid-Publication-08-10-2020v2 It shows that in the whole of the South West region, during a 24-hour period, only two Covid-19 patients had to be admitted to hospital.
The total number of beds occupied in the SW on 1st October was 36. In the North West, on the same day, it was 688.
At one single hospital, the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, there were 68 Covid-19 patients.
The detailed data for individual NHS Trusts is published monthly, with the next release not due until 12th November. There has been very little change in the Covid-19 demand for hospital beds in Cornwall in recent months, despite the huge increase in positive test results.
The contrast with Cornwall’s “first wave” in April is stark. On the 14th April, the Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust had 54 hospital beds occupied by Covid-19 patients. On 5th April, the Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro, saw its “peak-Covid” moment with 40 beds occupied. On 13th April, the RCHT had its busiest Covid-19 period in intensive care with six patients needing ventilation.
The same data release shows that in the North West region, on 1st October, 89 patients had to be admitted to hospital within 24 hours. There are now fears that hospitals in the Manchester area could be overwhelmed in only a few weeks.
While scientists and politicians ponder what the data might mean, and the public policy implications of striving for a “level playing field,” the arguments continue over whether to encourage local responses or whether only a national lockdown can stem the rising tide of new infections.
It is clear that the local lockdowns which started in Leicester, and which now embrace huge swathes of the North of England, have failed. The reasons for this are not clear, but with growing resentment in the North and the Midlands, Cornwall is once again seen as a potential magnet for “virus refugees.”
Scientists have a variety of theories to explain the huge regional variations – Cornwall's natural environment, making it easier to enjoy more personal space; a more “risk averse” elderly population and a relatively small number of students in further or higher education.
Cornwall’s relatively advanced broadband infrastructure – while still poor in some rural areas – is also allowing a large number of people to work from home.