STAFF at the trust which runs Winchester hospital after facing increasing pressures, with patients being moved to the area to help other struggling hospitals.

The Chronicle understands that the sites run by Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (HHFT) are being called upon to take Covid patients from other trusts across the south east.

While the trust did not disclose where patients are being transferred from, it is understood that those who are critically ill with the virus have been moved to Southampton from Kent.

Patients in the south east have also been moved to hospitals as far away as Plymouth, Bristol and Leeds as cases rise and fears grow that London and Kent could run out of hospital beds.

Hampshire Chronicle:

Hampshire Hospitals chief nurse Julie Dawes said: “The NHS across the south east is under increasing pressure as we see a rise in the number of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 who need hospital care.

“The NHS is offering support to each other to deal with the increased demand, particularly in relation to critical care, however this is not a new process and critical care networks have long worked together in this way.

“Despite the demand for this type of support growing, we can confirm we currently have a very small number of patients receiving care who have been transferred from outside our immediate area.”

Figures from the trust show there were 215 patients in its hospitals as of Monday, 84 at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital, in Winchester, 126 in Basingstoke and five in Andover. This compares to 163 on January 4, and 148 during the first wave peak in April.

According to the latest data on December 5 from Public Health England seven patients were on ventilators.

And on Friday last week, the trust said says that beds are being used by 470 non-Covid patients.

Hampshire Chronicle:

News of the escalation has forced HHFT to make changes to its policy on face coverings, with members of the public asked to swap for a surgical mask on arrival at the one of the trust’s sites.

Surgical masks will be found at the entrances and offer better protection.

A spokesman said: “To help keep our patients and staff safe, face coverings will no longer be permitted on any of our hospital sites - instead all visitors and outpatients are asked to wear a surgical face mask.

“Keeping everyone safe is our top priority. Surgical face masks offer a greater level of protection, and can be found at every entrance to our hospitals at Andover, Basingstoke and Winchester.”

This week health bosses have also confirmed there are no plans for a Nightingale Hospital “or a similar service” across Hampshire.

But they said the temporary mortuary set up in Basingstoke last year remains in place.

A spokesperson for Hampshire County Council said: “As part of our area’s response to the pandemic, a temporary mortuary site has been established in Basingstoke. If required, this facility would serve the whole of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight region, including Southampton and Portsmouth.”

Speaking at the meeting of the Health and Adult Social Care Select Committee at Hampshire County Council on Monday, Simon Bryant, the Hampshire director of public health, said the new variant of Covid is present across Hampshire.

The increasing pressure on the NHS and health bosses comes as multiple videos have been posted online over the last week claiming the coronavirus pandemic has been exaggerated, showing footage of empty hospitals in Hampshire.

The videos are mostly filmed by individuals walking through hospital corridors and are posted in Facebook groups filled with coronavirus sceptics and anti-lockdown activists.

The posts have sparked fears that people could be lulled into a false sense of security, raising their risk of contracting the deadly virus.

Whilst HHFT confirmed no incidents of filming had occurred at any of their hospital sites, they emphasise that the hospitals are now under ‘increasing pressure’.

Nurse Dawes said: “Our staff are working tirelessly to ensure patients continue to receive the best care, including helping out with extra shifts at short notice and working in different departments to support other teams.”

A police spokesperson confirmed that a 30-year-old woman had been handed a £200 fixed penalty notice by officers investigating reports of someone visiting hospitals in Hampshire and taking photographs.

The spokesperson said she was fined because she did not have a valid reason for leaving her home.