Young, unvaccinated people are continuing to enter Liverpool’s intensive care units, struggling to breathe as they battle Covid-19.
Senior doctors at Liverpool’s main hospital trust have explained how once they are in the ICU and requiring machines to help them breathe, many want to change their mind and “wish they had got the vaccine.”
Liverpool is still lagging way behind other areas in terms of its vaccine uptake, with just 62.5% of people over the age of 16 in the city having had both doses of a covid jab.
This means that nearly four in 10 eligible people in the city do not currently have the full protection of both jabs and doctors say they are sadly seeing younger, healthy but unvaccinated people coming in to the city’s ICUs.
The positive news is that the overall number of covid patients being looked after in Liverpool’s main hospitals has fallen – it currently stands at around 129, having peaked at 176 in mid September.
But the number of patients who are so seriously unwell that they require intensive care treatment has mainly stayed around the same level for several months.
One senior doctor at the trust said: “Since June, the number of patients with covid in intensive care in Liverpool has remained somewhere between 15 and 20, therefore one quarter to one third of the ICU beds are occupied by patients with covid, causing continuing pressure on ICU beds and effectively reducing our capacity.
“Most of the patients we see with covid in ICU – 9 out of 10 – have not had both doses of the vaccine, which is having disastrous consequences for them and their families.
“I have met women who are pregnant or recently pregnant who hadn’t got the vaccine, because unfortunately they were poorly advised by other healthcare professionals.
“I have met people who haven’t got round to getting both doses of the vaccine, who don’t easily access healthcare because they don’t speak much English, or they don’t trust the Government or authority figures.
“Some patients who are young and healthy have decided that they don’t need the vaccine as they thought that the risk of getting seriously unwell with covid is low.”
The doctor added: “Obviously once they are in ICU and needing help with their breathing, they often want to change their mind and wish they had got the vaccine.
“Although if they are young and fit, they will probably get better, we cannot guarantee that they will survive, and then it is too late. ”
The doctor spoke of the deep sadness and frustration staff feel when someone is lost to covid, who could have been saved had they got vaccinated.
They added: “It is quite shocking that they all died of what is now an almost completely preventable infectious disease. These people were leaving behind their families who were completely devastated.”
But it’s not just the intensive care units where the covid pressure is continuing to be felt.
There has been significant impact on other patients too, including delayed time-critical cancer surgeries.
These delays are happening because some of these patients need critical care post surgery – and there is not enough beds – and because in order to increase ICU bed numbers to care for covid patients, theatre staff have been called upon from elsewhere.
The knock on effect will be felt for some time and the North West of England has the longest waiting list times for planned surgery in the country.
One doctor told the ECHO: “Pre-pandemic, there was a national shortage of nurses, and the UK had one of the lowest number of ICU and hospital beds per head of population in Europe.
“Although we are not experiencing surges in COVID patients, there has been a rebound in other demand for healthcare and there is a huge amount of pressure on hospitals, GPs, emergency departments and the ambulance service.”
And all this of course comes before mentioning the drastic impact the past 18 months has had on Liverpool’s NHS staff, who have several times found themselves at the forefront of the covid battle.
One doctor said: “A significant number of nursing and medical staff have suffered mental health problems as a result of the overwhelming situation in hospitals last autumn and winter.
“This includes post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression and burnout.
“Although we saw some recovery of staff between March 2021 and May 2021, since June the numbers of staff reporting these mental health problems has again increased as the numbers of patients with covid has increased again.”