DEVON hospitals have reported a fall in the number of patients testing positive for Covid-19 in the past week.

As of Tuesday morning, there were 195 patients occupying beds across the county after a positive test, down on 254 the previous Tuesday. This is the second week in a row that the number has dropped by more than 20 per cent.

Patient numbers have fallen in all Devon’s hospitals, even taking into account that Devon’s figures are slightly inflated by patients from elsewhere in the country, including Somerset and Dorset.

In total, as of Tuesday, there were 41 patients at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital (down from 58), 54 at the Nightingale Hospital (down from 57), 33 at Torbay Hospital (down from 35), 62 in Derriford Hospital in Plymouth (down from 92), two at North Devon District Hospital (down from eight), and three in Devon Partnership NHS Trust units (down from four), although not all patients are local, having been transferred from elsewhere.

The figure for the RD&E of 41 patients is the lowest figure since November 4 last year, while the two in North Devon is the lowest number since October 13 last year.

In Cornwall, the number of patients in hospital has fallen, down to 129 from the 149 as of last week.

And the number of patients in mechanical ventilation beds across the two counties is down as well, with 17 in Derriford, six at the RD&E, three in Torbay, and one in North Devon, with a total of 27, down from 35 as of last Tuesday, while in Cornwall, the total remains unchanged at 14.

The figures represent the number of patients in hospital following a positive Covid-19 test who are currently occupying a bed.

But not every patient would necessarily have been admitted to hospital due to Covid-19, with a number of patients either contracting the virus inside the hospital, or being admitted for unrelated reasons but subsequently testing positive in routine tests.

And as a percentage of total acute beds available, one per cent of beds in North Devon are occupied with Covid patients, seven per cent in Torbay, seven per cent in Plymouth, and 13 per cent in Exeter and 13 per cent in Cornwall. All hospitals have seen a decrease, except for Torbay, but Torbay remains the joint second lowest in England.

North Devon, Torbay and Plymouth have the lowest percentage occupancy rates anywhere in England, while at a partnership level, Devon is the second lowest.

And based on patients, both Covid and non-Covid related, in adult critical care, every single hospital in Devon has a lower occupancy of capacity that last winter.

Figures from the Health Service Journal comparing occupancy of hospital beds with last winter shows Derriford is at 95 per cent, Exeter at 76 per cent, North Devon at 63 per cent and Torbay at 30 per cent. Cornwall though is at 133 per cent.

Dr Paul Johnson, clinical chair of the Devon CCG, told Thursday’s morning Team Devon Local Outbreak Engagement Board meeting, that while patient number in hospitals were declining, there was a way to go before getting back to ‘business as usual’.

He said: ‘We have just under 200 patients with Covid, which is the first time since early January, and it does reflect where we were early November, so there still a way to go where we were in the autumn and the summer.

‘There has been a steady decline but we still need the Nightingale to maintain Covid activity and the urgent and emergency work we need to do. We are using independent sector to get as much of the work we can done but we are still not at the position for full elective activity and still more to do before we can return to business as usual.’