The number of people in the Royal Cornwall Hospital suffering from Covid has shot up from four at the beginning of December to 56 now - an increase of 1,300%.

There are currently 56 people in Cornwall’s main hospital with Covid-19 as the increase in cases has led to more people being hospitalised.

The figure was revealed to a meeting of the board of Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT) this morning.

Members were reminded that at their last meeting on December 3 it was reported that there were just four people with Covid in the hospital, but today that figure stands at 56.

Robin Jones, acting director of operations at RCHT, said that of those two patients were in the intensive treatment unit (ITU) and three were in the high dependency unit (HDU).

Mr Jones said that since the pandemic started in March 2020 there had been 96 deaths in hospitals run by RCHT with 18 having occurred since the board’s last meeting in December. He said it was a “very sad statistic”.

He said: “Cornwall is becoming busier, which is the term I use, we are seeing more Covid in the community and we have more patients in the hospital as well.”

The acting director said that the hospitals trust was working on a basis of making sure that patients do not come to harm.

He said that a plan was in place to ensure that the hospital could cope with demand and said that they were readying an expansion of critical care if needed.

Mr Jones said that all staff were also being prepared so that they could help support frontline priority services if required.

The board heard that visiting restrictions were in place at the hospital with visitors only allowed for end of life patients, maternity, paediatrics and when visits were considered to be in clinical best interests.

Turning to the vaccine he explained that there are two sites at RCH – one at the Tower block and another at the Health and Wellbeing Innovation Centre. He said that GPs were also rolling out vaccines and further mass vaccination sites are being planned.

Mr Jones said that while the increase in covid patients and a switch to prioritise urgent care had had an impact on waiting times, the trust had continued to prioritise cancer diagnosis and treatment.

In November 89.8% of cancer patients were seen within two weeks of referral – down from 97.6% in October. However 91.5% of patients were treated within 62 days of referral, up from 90.1% in October.

Mr Jones said: “The increase in demand for breast services above our normal demand since October has impacted on our two week wait performance and are now finding treating breast patients within the 62 day standard a challenge due to the delay to treatment planning and surgical location changes.

“Despite delay to first appointment for breast patients they continue to achieve 97% in reach diagnosis by day 28 and recent changes to booking will reduce risk to patients and performance.”

Kate Shields, RCHT chief executive, said that some patients may find that routine appointments will be cancelled due to the demand on services.

People were reminded that if they had any concerns they should contact their GP or call NHS 111.

Mr Jones said that the hospital was “open for business” and said: “If you need our services please come.”