LESS than 10 Covid-19 patients are now in intensive care in Bradford - but caution is still being urged after a "blip" where overall numbers of patients with the virus rose. 

Professor John Wright gave the update during an online Zoom meeting which looked at Bradford's response and recovery to the coronavirus crisis.

Prof Wright, an epidemiologist and director of the Bradford Institute for Health Research, which is based at the Bradford Royal Infirmary, has played a key role in the city's response to the deadly virus.

He told the meeting: “What’s encouraging has been our response as a city and as a health service and as a community and system.

“I’ve got some fantastic colleagues at the hospital who have been quite remarkable.

"When we look at how we’ve compared to other hospitals - this is a disease that no-one knew how to deal with, we were all learning very quickly as it hit the country - but thanks to some of my colleagues, our ICU admissions were down to about seven per cent of patients, compared to about 18 per cent in the rest of the country."

He added: “That upstream prevention on the wards, looking after people with CPAP, non-invasive ventilation, which seems to have been quite a critical thing to do.

“Our mortality figures seem to be better than other hospitals. While we’ve had less admissions to ICU, actually our results have been better, so that’s also encouraging,

“We’re really mindful about our BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) community and our BAME patients that we’ve been working on right from the start on understanding what the risk is and seeing what we can do to mitigate that.

“A lot of this does seem to be structural, socio-economic structural, around how our society is.

“We have been looking at mortality in the hospital – there doesn’t seem to be much difference between ethnic groups – particularly our larger groups are South Asian and White British  - there doesn’t seem to be much difference.

“But there was a paper out a couple of days ago looking at 30,00 patients from across the UK which suggests there’s a 20 per cent increase in mortality, so we’ve got to look at that carefully and we’re doing a large audit at the moment, combining with Calderdale, to try and get our numbers up for that."

While there are less than 10 patients on ICU, Prof Wright said it reflects what a nasty illness Covid-19 is.

He said: “These are patients that have been in for over two months some of them, really long-term, long-haulers, trying to recover from this very brutal illness."

In terms of numbers of patients with Covid-19 in the hospital, he said: “Last weekend, we were down to something like around 45 and there was a great sense of optimism actually – with the easing of lockdown and maybe we’re seeing the end of the epidemic curve.

“But then we’ve had a blip this week, numbers have gone up, so we’re cautious.

“This is a very, very tricky period. I think it’s really important to understand that the UK, the epidemic curve is falling slower than the rest of our European comparators.

“In Bradford, we are falling slower than our neighbouring hospitals and regions, so this is going to become increasingly localised what happens.

"We're talking a lot about R numbers, but they are going to be heavily weighted by small clusters and outbreaks of disease as we go forward."

He also banged the drum for Bradford as a city of research, particularly in the Recovery trial, which in a "major breakthrough" found the drug dexamethasone reduced deaths by up to a third among patients on ventilators, and by a fifth for those on oxygen.

“Being part of these studies, we had over 200 patients in the Recovery study, means that we get early signals about what works, so we’ve been able to use these drugs for the last few weeks – saving lives of Bradfordians actually – because of our involvement in these trials," he said.

Work is also ongoing to look at the long-term impact of Covid-19 and the lockdown on people in Bradford, with Prof Wright describing responses to one survey as "quite heartbreaking", with those not comfortably off struggling with anxiety and depression, poor quality housing and job insecurity. 

Meanwhile, Bradford Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe said there would be a gap of around £55 million in the Council's finances if things carry on as they are. 

She said: “We’ve now got to live with Covid and the economy is opening up again and that’s a new, fresh challenge – making sure that people try and retain those social distance rules, don’t have family gatherings, don’t go into each other’s houses.,

“All that is so important to keep the infection at bay, because actually it has been hugely costly for the economy.

“What we’re trying to do now of course is see about recovery.

“We’re going to put a package together to see how we support businesses and support people to get jobs, so for me, it’s still about transport, it’s still about education and skills, it’s still about culture, to regenerate our place – we just need to do it faster than we have before and we’ll be needing Government support and funding to be able to deliver on those plans.”

She urged people to remain vigilant.

"Infection is still out there. By all means ease the lockdown, but just be conscious of what you're doing."