Hospitals and NHS services across East Lancashire are facing increasing pressures due to the rise in Covid-19 patients being admitted to hospital, as staff begin to prepare for winter admissions.

There are around 100 more people hospitalised with Covid-19 in Lancashire than the latest published figures suggest – because real-time data for individual NHS trusts is not routinely being released.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) has learned that regional NHS bosses have opted not to provide a daily update of the situation in each of Lancashire’s hospitals – instead preferring to publish a total figure for the number of Covid inpatients across the county on a weekly basis.

That tally can be found in the Lancashire Resilience Forum’s seven-day bulletin of coronavirus statistics – but it comes with a lag of more than a week.

The latest version of the document contains a figure for the week to October 6.

It states that 209 people were in hospital with coronavirus across Lancashire and South Cumbria at that point – both new admissions and people who had tested positive after arrival.

However, in a message on social media last week, the chair of Lancashire’s health and wellbeing board said that just over 300 people were hospitalised with the virus.

County Cllr Shaun Turner – who is also Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for health and wellbeing – told the LDRS that the figure he quoted was from October 13.

In his post, he noted that there were 496 beds occupied by Covid patients across the region at the peak of the first wave in spring – and that the pressure had required the cancellation of many pre-planned procedures.

“A backlog built up and, post-original lockdown, a recovery plan was drawn up to deal with [it]. It’s important to point out that that recovery plan was based on the infamous R-value being under 1 – it’s sitting now in Lancashire at between 1.4 and 1.8 – and infection rates are rising rapidly.”

GP and medical director for the Pennine Lancashire CCGs, Dr Mark Dziobon, said doctors locally were very concerned about the rising infection rates as the numbers in Blackburn with Darwen rose to 437 per 100,000 people last week.

According to statistics, 16 to 29-year-olds are in the most common age group for new cases, with Bastwell and Daisyfield, Audley and Queens Park and Shear Brow and Corporation Park wards providing the most cases.

Blackburn with Darwen has also seen a total of 111 Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Dr Dziobon said: "Covid-19 is a serious disease and there is still no cure or vaccine – sadly this means the number of people who die will increase.

"While we have learned lots about this disease since the start of the pandemic and new treatments are available, the long term effects can be debilitating – even for young, fit people who originally had mild symptoms.

"Hospitals are continuing to provide care for non-Covid patients and it is important that anyone with concerns continues to come forward for help and treatment.

"It’s no secret that, as infections rise, so do hospital admissions. That’s why it is really important everyone takes action now to prevent more people getting sick from this disease.

"The important role that we can all play is following local guidance, which has been put in place to protect us and encouraging our families and friends to do the same.

"Everyone should be thinking wash hands regularly, wear a face mask in enclosed public spaces and keep your distance from others.

"If everyone plays their part to prevent the spread, collectively we can get through this."

Critical care capacity at Royal Blackburn Hospital is fluid and dependent upon the acuity of patients, according to a spokesperson for the East Lancashire Hospitals Trust.

This means the number of patients currently in ICU on any given morning could be more or less than the number in the afternoon.

Deputy chief executive at East Lancashire Hospitals, Martin Hodgson, said: “There is no doubt that we are now getting much busier with Covid patients, and this is as we restore our 'normal' services and plan for winter.

"We do have contingency plans, however, and the hospitals remain safe.

"If you are asked to attend our hospitals, you should keep your appointment.

"We'd also like to take this opportunity to ask people to do their bit to control the spread of the infection.

"Please follow the guidance - wash your hands, maintain space between yourself and others, and wear a mask where appropriate.”