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  • Writer's pictureRichard Cree

Winding Down

19th January 2022

UK COVID Deaths – Daily 438 / 7-Day average 272

Total UK COVID Deaths within 28 days – 152,513

Total UK Deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate – 174,233 (up to 31 Dec)

James Cook Hospital – Total COVID deaths – 736

All COVID cases within South Tees Hospitals Trust – 167

James Cook Critical Care

COVID cases – 6 (4 ventilated)

Non-COVID cases – 48 (22 ventilated)

It is now clear that the Omicron wave is waning. Local case numbers are falling but there is still a significant number of people in hospital. Yesterday saw our total number of COVID positive patients peak at 176, which is more than we saw during the first wave back in April 2020. However, things are not the same. Far fewer patients are as unwell as they were back then. The COVID wards are no longer full of people struggling to breathe. The hiss of oxygen masks is no longer ever-present and fewer and fewer people are requiring CPAP. There has been no need for any temporary Intensive Care Units and the number of patients on ventilators remains low.

Probably about a quarter of the patients on the five COVID wards have been admitted with other medical problems and their positive COVID test will be an incidental finding. In others, especially the unvaccinated, infection can still result in respiratory failure but the pneumonitis caused by Omicron is appreciably less severe than before. A third group is made up of patients in whom COVID has triggered other medical problems or caused a stable medical condition, such as kidney disease or heart failure, to deteriorate.

Whilst the situation is far better than we were expecting, the hospital is still finding it a challenge to cope with such a large number of patients. The staff sickness rate is decreasing but there are still many members of staff who are unable to work following infection with Omicron. Empty beds remain hard to come by and many patients continue to experience long waits in A&E.

Part of the reason that the hospital is so full is due to the difficulty in discharging patients once they have recovered. Many patients are unable to leave hospital due to pressure and staff shortages within the social care system. Others are unable to return to their own homes until a suitable care package is in place. Such delayed discharges inevitably lead to the hospital becoming clogged and the flow of patients grinds to a halt. Difficulty getting patients out of hospital leads to difficulty getting new ones in.

Fortunately, the number of COVID patients being admitted each day has begun to decrease and the situation should continue to improve. Boris appears to have already started celebrating the end of the pandemic. To be honest, it looks like he started celebrating way back in May 2020 and never stopped. For the rest of us, raiding the wine fridge at work and cracking open the champagne may be somewhat premature. However, despite the strain that the hospital is currently under, I am confident that the worst will soon be behind us and that the end is now in sight.

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Jan 21, 2022

Hi Richard and everyone.

Thanks for all the support from you all.

I am with Lynn in Darlington, ARU. A big thanks to everyone here who is doing an amazing job.

I am sitting with 2 fingers on Lynn's NIV, Richard will know how nightmarish keeping a seal can be.

Lynn is on an NIV with 15 litres of oxygen.

When the NIV is off her sats drop to 30s quickly. Her CO2 is high , 9 on the last test from ear blood gases.

I am not giving up on her. A midazalam driver has been offered but no reason to give up. Lynn is asleep right now which is good because she keeps her NIV on

Lynn would…

Jan 29, 2022
Replying to

Hello Richard,

Lynn's cause of death ( 1a ) was in fact Covid Pneumonitis, the official and primary cause of death.

After speaking with many Consultants during the death certification process they, unsurprisingly, concur with you.

They also agreed with me that it's far more likely to be Delta she had.

I have asked if it's possible to have the positive samples sequenced but her final two were negative. I am under the impression it's unlikely this will happen.

I offered to pay myself if the cost wasn't too high, however I most definitely do not wish to cause extra work for sn understaffed and under funded NHS. It was just for my own peace of mind.

My mother-in-law did…


Jan 21, 2022

So sad to read that your girlfriend is still so poorly-saying prayers for you both and hoping that you’re home together soon.

Jan 21, 2022
Replying to

Thank you, I have just come back. We got to wave through the window.

She has bacterial and Covid infections. I can't imagine being without her, we have been together for 22 years, just never done the marriage thing.

I just have to be hopeful, it's the only way I can hold myself together.

Thanks again.


Jan 20, 2022

What are your thoughts on this rapid lifting of any restrictions Richard? I’ve been really unwell having tested positive for COVID on 28th December and now have pleurisy and a chest infection and am on my second lot of steroids and antibiotics. I’m feeling very anxious about my staff returning to the office en masse and feel this is very premature. I have no idea where I’ve picked this up from as I’ve hardly been out, and I’m triple vaccinated. Those who say it’s just been like a cold have been very fortunate I think.

Jan 22, 2022
Replying to

Totally agree Jon.


Jan 19, 2022

Hi Richard,

Thank you for the update.

Let's hope we finally see a glimmer of light. This month has been awful. My girlfriend is in hospital with Covid now, she had only been home for a few days after serious pneumonia.

It's impossible to ventilate lifts and landings.

I know Darlington Memorial is struggling with staff sickness.

Waiting times in A&E in Wigan are also huge, patients are being treated in the waiting room.

For many caught up with Covid or facing long waits, it doesn't feel like the end.

Having been ill all week with Covid myself, it's like a proper flu. My temp has been over 39c, SATs 91 (previously healthy person). Fortunately I haven't needed hospital, in…

Jan 21, 2022
Replying to

It's looking quite grim, Dr Murphy is currently looking after her.

Her respiratory system is exhausted, she is still on 14 litres, NIV as much as can be tolerated.

I hope the NIV gives her a break and some assistance. It did during a similar incident in 2019.

I have to be optimistic despite knowing the odds are stacked against her. These next few days will be critical.

Thank you for your kind wishes.


Jan 19, 2022

Very encouraging news. We've had false dawns before but this one sounds different. Thank you for all the work you do. You're the heroes.

Richard Cree
Richard Cree
Jan 19, 2022
Replying to

Thank you. Yes - it does feel different. I haven’t dared to feel optimistic before now! Cheers, Richard

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