THE most senior intensive care doctor at north Cumbria’s two main hospitals says that the ongoing surge in Covid-19 patient admissions has yet to reach its peak.

Dr Jon Sturman, who is the clinical director of intensive care at the trust which runs The Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven, said we are now seeing the consequences of increased social mixing at Christmas.

He also blew apart the common misconception that younger people are not at risk from Covid-19.

Dr Sturman said: “We have more than 200 patients who have tested positive for Covid; and a significant number of hospitalised patients with Covid illness do become critically unwell, and some of those need ventilation.

“This is an expected rise in admissions with the easing of restrictions over Christmas. Over the last week we’ve started to see the effects of that with patients who picked up Covid either just before or at Christmas.

“We are expecting an ongoing increase in admissions over the next week or so as a reflection of that. The number of people in hospital is going to mount with the ongoing admissions. We know there’s a relatively reliable pattern as community infections go up.

“That’s followed close behind with a proportion of those being hospitalised; and then a proportion of those then going on to become critically unwell. The peak is still rising.”

Asked about the age profile of Covid patients, he said: “The general impression is that we’re seeing a bigger number of young patients who need intensive care than in the first wave.

“That’s a feature not just in Cumbria but in the general intensive care community; and what we’ve heard from the experience of our colleagues in London. I’ve not seen any children with severe Covid disease personally but we are talking about young adults.

“The virus isn’t obeying any age related rules. It’s affecting everyone. I’ve been a doctor for 27 years, primarily in emergency care. For everybody, this is unprecedented. It’s putting pressure on the system in a way that we’ve not seen previously.

“Everybody is under their own pressures but the health staff are under immense strain - but helped by amazing acts of professionalism with all my colleagues supporting each other. We’re all concerned that this is bigger than the first wave.”

“Like everybody, we want to see it decline.” Operating theatres now being used for intensive care patients and theatres staff are working with Covid patients.

The trust has also freed up beds by transferring a small number of patients to other hospitals, including in Newcastle. A spokeswoman for North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospitals in Carlisle and Whitehaven, said: “The public can help us to help them by observing the hands, face, space guidance and help to reduce transmission of the virus.”Fantastic team of managers to ensure capacity is always maintained and have been asking for mutual aid from other hospitals. We just need the public to help us to reduce the spread of the virus; to observe the measures that the Government recommends.

The latest figures today show there were 1,240 new infections reported in Carlisle in the last week, giving an infection rate per 100,000 of 1,141. The England average is 650 per 100,000.