A CRITICAL incident has been declared at Great Western Hospital due to the sharp increase in the number of Covid patients.

The hospital is currently treating Covid 159 patients - up from 145 yesterday - and has warned that these numbers are continuing to climb.

A GWH spokesperson said: “Following increased pressure on Great Western Hospital, the Trust has declared a critical incident today.

"This is due to a large number of patients on site who are receiving care for COVID-19, currently at 159 confirmed and suspected, as well as issues being faced by local ambulance crews waiting a long time to handover patients to our Emergency Department.

“We are working closely with our partners across the region to look at extra staffing capacity to assist with the sheer numbers of patients needing care, as well as how we can speed up discharges for those who are ready to go home. If a loved one needs collecting from the hospital, please do so as quickly as possible."

The NHS is asking patients to call 111 as a first priority if they need medical help.

The spokesperson added: "Please continue to do your bit to slow the spread of infection by washing your hands, covering your face and making space."

The number of recorded coronavirus cases in Swindon increased by 124 yesterday.

Swindon Borough Council’s director of public health Steve Maddern said: “The escalating situation at Great Western Hospital is a stark reminder of how quickly our local health services can reach breaking point under the strain of COVID-19.

“Our colleagues at the hospital are doing an amazing job treating COVID-19 patients here in Swindon but, as we have been saying for some time, we all have a responsibility to protect ourselves and stop the transmission of COVID-19 within our communities. Every choice we make to follow the guidelines or not has a direct and indirect impact on the hospital and the communities around us.

“Please stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.”