London hospitals are admitting 800 coronavirus patients every day and will be overwhelmed in two weeks unless the current rate drops significantly, NHS officials have warned. Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, on Thursday said the health service was experiencing a surge in admissions across the UK.
“We’ve seen an increase of 10,000 hospitalised coronavirus patients just since Christmas Day,” he said. The 800 patients being admitted each day in the capital was “the equivalent of a new St Thomas’ hospital, full of Covid patients, fully staffed, everyday”, he told a Downing Street press conference, referring to one of London’s bigger hospitals. “The entirety of the health service in London is mobilising to do everything it possibly can,” Sir Simon added. “But the rate of growth in admissions — that is what collectively the country has got to get under control.”
The assessment came a day after Vin Diwakar, medical director of NHS London, outlined stark forecasts indicating that even in the “best-case scenario”, in which the number of Covid-19 patients rises at the lowest plausible rate of 4 per cent each day, hospitals in London would be short of close to 2,000 beds by January 19.
In the mid-range scenario, a 5 per cent daily increase, there would be a 3,569 shortfall, and in the worst case, if the number of Covid-19 patients rises by 6 per cent each day, the NHS in London would need another 5,400 beds. Under all scenarios, the number of non-coronavirus patients stayed the same, the NHS found an extra 400 beds, relied on the private medical sector and some provision from the temporary Nightingale hospitals.
English hospitals now have 46 per cent more confirmed coronavirus patients in hospital than at the peak of the first wave of the virus in 2020, according to Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents NHS hospitals, community, mental health and ambulance services.
He posted data on Twitter showing that significant rises in weekly Covid-19 hospital admissions had been seen across the country, although the biggest increases were in London and the South West. During recent winters, the number of people in London hospitals’ intensive care units at any time is about 700, rising to as high as 770 in January 2018 during the worst flu outbreak for 40 years. Covid-19 admissions this winter have shattered that record, with London ICU occupancy reaching 1,074 on January 3.
“The entire service from the front end to the back end is under strain,” said Dolin Bhagawati, a London neurosurgeon speaking on behalf of the Doctors’ Association UK. “We’re having to expand [intensive treatment unit] capacity, we’ve had to cancel a large amount of planned care, including operations.”
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