Watford General Hospital is under "enormous pressure" as staff try and cope with a huge influx of new Covid patients.

The latest NHS data shows West Hertfordshire Hospital NHS Trust admitted 124 new Covid patients between December 23 and 27, taking the total number of Covid patients currently being cared for by the trust to a record 285.

Extremely high infection rates across Hertfordshire and neighbouring areas has inevitably led to a surge in hospital admissions at Watford General - and a significant local rise in the number of over 60s catching the disease in the run-up to Christmas means more pressure is likely to be piled onto the NHS in the coming weeks.

This is because there can be a two-week lag for patients to become seriously ill enough to be hospitalised.

The trust's chief nurse Tracey Carter confirmed on New Years Eve that staff - who haven't been forced to self-isolate or are off sick - are "working flat out" to keep services running and urged everyone in Hertfordshire to "do their bit and do the right thing" by staying at home wherever possible.

Borehamwood Times:

Chief nurse Tracey Carter

She will have been dismayed by reports of several house parties and large gatherings in Watford on New Years Eve - events the town's mayor Peter Taylor described as "selfish and reckless".

Mr Taylor added: "The number of Covid cases is soaring locally. Our hospital is under enormous pressure at the moment. Behaviour like this will mean it is even more difficult for NHS workers trying to prevent more lives being lost to this virus."

West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust was looking after 285 Covid patients as of 8am on December 30, according to NHS England - nearly double what the trust experienced during the spring peak.

The ageing Watford General Hospital struggled in the spring to cope with the demand Covid patients brought - a critical incident was declared on April 4 with the oxygen system nearing maximum capacity.

Figures show Covid patients at the trust have almost doubled in just 11 days - from 149 on December 19 to 285 on December 30.

Of the 285 patients, 18 are on a ventilation bed, which is below a peak of 24 on April 13.

The Watford Observer understands frontline NHS staff at West Hertfordshire trust, which also runs St Albans and Hemel Hempstead hospitals, have been recommended to postpone their annual leave in January and February, with clinicians being drafted in to work additional shifts over the coming weeks.

The rise in Covid patients means there are less available beds for non-Covid patients.

NHS data shows on December 29, there were just 26 available adult general or acute beds at the trust, with 296 taken up by non-Covid patients - that number of 296 was a reduction of almost 100 non-Covid patients in just a week.

In a thread on Twitter, Hertfordshire's director of public health, Jim McManus, said Covid patients are staying longer in hospital because many more are surviving now than in the peak, but said they are "often very ill and need oxygen".

He said the number of beds being taken up by Covid patients means the beds beside them cannot be used, while there are impacts on non-Covid patients too, for example they are at increased risk of catching Covid in hospital due to the sheer amount of Covid patients already there.

Mr McManus tweeted: "Playing our part in suppressing the virus does make a difference. It stops the quadruple whammy of 1) admissions and longer stays, 2) staff sickness, 3) vaccine delay and 4) long Covid care need.

"Letting the virus 'rip through' is junk science, a deadly strategy and it is a false idea that only the 'vulnerable' will be at risk of death or harm....the less the virus circulates the more the system copes.

"When outside your household treat everyone as if they may be infected and behave as if you may be too. Hands, face, space and self isolate when symptomatic or asked to do so."