Half of intensive care COVID patients in Wales died during second wave

George Martin
·3-min read
CARDIFF, WALES - DECEMBER 27: A general view of the accident and emergency department of the University Hospital of Wales on December 27, 2020 in Cardiff, Wales. An urgent appeal for specialist help caring for coronavirus patients has been made by the health board running Wales' largest hospital - the University Hospital of Wales. Cardiff and Vale health board, which runs University Hospital of Wales, put out a plea for assistance in its critical care department on Boxing Day. Welsh Government data shows it ran out of intensive care beds on 20 December. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)
Ambulances outside a hospital in Cardiff. (Getty)

About half of coronavirus patients admitted to intensive care units in Wales during the second wave have died, shocking new data has revealed.

A study by the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC) found that almost half of the 431 Welsh patients who were critically ill with coronavirus from 1 September to 31 December 2020 died.

Intensive care consultant Matt Morgan said improved treatment had now led to vastly improved outcomes for COVID patients in Wales.

"We are putting fewer people, who are in the first stage of their illness, on to life support machines. And that is because we have treatments now that we know can help," he told BBC News.

CARDIFF, WALES - DECEMBER 21: First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford speaks during a press conference at the Welsh Government building in Cathays Park on December 21, 2020 in Cardiff, Wales. Wales went into a Level 4 lockdown from midnight on December 19. All non-essential shops have closed and people have been advised to stay home in a bid to curb the infection rates in one of the worst hit areas of the UK. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)
First minister Mark Drakeford said on Friday last week he was worried about the NHS in Wales becoming overwhelmed. (Getty)

"Overall, you are more likely now to survive COVID than ever before, and that is in every age group – sometimes by as much as 10% more.

"What we do know is that overall, out of every 10 people who come to intensive care with COVID about six of them will survive and will leave the intensive care unit. Which means sadly four of them won't, four of them will die.

"That's similar overall to the first wave but that data is based on some patients who are still in the intensive care unit. So that may change and it's more likely to get worse rather than better."

Read more: What you can and can't do under current lockdown rules

During the second wave, men aged in their 60s were more likely to need intensive care as were those from Asian backgrounds and deprived areas.

Of the patients studied by ICNARC, 68% were men and 32% women and the average age of patients was 59.5 years.

It comes as Public Health Wales (PHW) reported a further 1,332 cases of coronavirus in Wales on Tuesday, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 172,879.

Watch: Welsh government sets out ambitious vaccination target

The agency also reported another 16 deaths, taking the total in Wales since the start of the pandemic to 3,997.

PHW added that a total of 91,239 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been given by 10pm on Monday, an increase of 5,200 from the previous day.

A total of 97 second doses were also given, an increase of 18 from Sunday.

Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford said at a press conference on Friday that he was concerned about how the new strain of the virus might affect the demand on hospitals in the coming days and weeks.

"The new strain is adding a dangerous dimension to the pandemic," he said.

"Wherever there's mixing; wherever people come together, the new strain is spreading – it is highly contagious and spreads very quickly from person to person.

"There's no evidence the new strain causes a more serious illness but it is adding to the pressure our NHS is experiencing at the moment."

Watch: What is long COVID?