Nurses will be permitted to look after two Covid patients at the same time in an attempt to relieve strain on hospitals, NHS bosses have ruled.
NHS England has decided to temporarily relax the 1:1 rule amid rising numbers of staff who have been forced off sick with the virus or told to self-isolate.
The number of people ill with Covid has risen to 11,514, of who 986 are on ventilators, according to the most recent figures.
NHS England has agreed its decision with the British Association of Critical Care Nurses, which represents specialist intensive care staff, according to The Guardian.
On Sunday, a Lincolnshire hospital trust became the first to declare a major incident during the second Covid wave after a surge in patients needing oxygen.
Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs hospitals across Grimsby and Scunthorpe, said it was also struggling with staff shortages after dozens of nurses and doctors were ordered to self-isolate.
North-east Lincolnshire is one of the worst affected areas in the country, with 106 Covid patients currently being treated in its three hospitals.
Dr Kate Wood, the trust’s medical director, said: “I can confirm that the trust has enacted its Major Incident Plan due to the demands on our oxygen supplies.
“To keep our patients safe, we have had to reconfigure a number of wards and move patients within the hospital overnight. We have also put a call out for additional nursing staff to work extra shifts.”
The trust said 56 patients were being treated at Grimsby’s Diana, Princess of Wales Hospital, 47 at Scunthorpe General Hospital and three at Goole – the first time patient numbers have crossed the 100 threshold. Six people are being treated in ICU in each of the Grimsby and Scunthorpe hospitals.
The trust reported another five deaths on Saturday, with two of those occurring on Friday and one each on the three preceding days.
Earlier in the week, Dr Wood said: “The number of inpatients has been going up over the last two weeks and is continuing to rise.
“This has meant we have had to close some wards and other areas to undertake deep cleans. We are also caring for lots of patients who are very ill with other conditions – as happens every year as we head towards winter.”
It comes amid rising pressure on hospitals across the country, with routine surgeries suspended across Greater Manchester over the weekend. Urgent operations and cancer appointments will continue to go ahead, health bosses said.
Last week, Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital cancelled elective operations after reporting a “significant” rise in both Covid and non-Covid emergency cases. All non-emergency surgery at the hospital until the end of this month will have to be rearranged, the trust said.