Health

Autumn Covid wave officially kicks off: NHS virus admissions jump by HALF in a week

England’s autumn Covid wave has officially kicked off, top experts claimed today as figures revealed both cases and virus admissions to hospital are beginning to spiral.

NHS statistics show a 48 per cent weekly uptick in the number of infected patients in England needing treatment, sparking panic among health chiefs.

And the Office for National Statistics, which tracks the size of the country’s outbreak, estimates cases have risen 12 per cent over the space of three days, suggesting pressure on hospitals is nowhere close to peaking. Roughly 860,000 people in England are thought to be carrying Covid.

It marks the first sustained rise since mid-July, when the summer wave peaked and ministers faced calls to bring back pandemic-era restrictions.

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Hospitals have been overwhelmed all summer. Care backlogs have amassed to record highs, patients have been killed by ambulance delays and thousands forced to queue 12-plus hours in swamped A&E units.

The never-ending crisis, largely fueled by a lack of staff, has already forced one NHS trust in Nottinghamshire to start cancelling routine operations. Rationing care is the only way to ensure critically-ill patients get urgent care, bosses said.

Leaders fear the situation will only worsen as routine winter pressures begin to bite, with Covid and flu expected to combine to create a ‘twindemic’.

Latest data from the Office for National Statistics shows Covid infections in England jumped by more than a tenth to 857,400 in the week to September 20

Covid hospitalisation data shows 7,024 infected patients were taking up hospital beds by 8am on Wednesday — up 37 per cent in a week and the highest figure in more than two months. Patient numbers had been falling since mid-July from a peak of 14,000, which was triggered by the Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5. But this decline came to a halt in mid-September

Covid hospitalisation data shows 7,024 infected patients were taking up hospital beds by 8am on Wednesday — up 37 per cent in a week and the highest figure in more than two months. Patient numbers had been falling since mid-July from a peak of 14,000, which was triggered by the Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5. But this decline came to a halt in mid-September

Record 40,000 nurses quit NHS last year: Unions warn overwhelmed staff are leaving for better-paid jobs in pubs, restaurants and coffee shops 

Record numbers of nurses are quitting the NHS in England, with overwhelmed staff ditching hospital roles for better-paid retail gigs.

More than 40,000 have left the health service in the past year – nearly a tenth of the workforce, official data suggests.

Many leavers were highly skilled and knowledgeable with years more work left. They were quitting in pursuit of a better work-life balance, analysts said.

The Nuffield Trust think-tank, which carried out the analysis, said the findings should act as an ‘urgent wake-up call’ for the Government, which is yet to commit to sorting the huge staffing crises plaguing the health service.

A lack of staff has been central to the record NHS care backlogs, ambulance delays and emergency department queues. 

Meanwhile, health leaders today warned staff are resigning in order to work in pubs, restaurants and coffee shops amid the cost-of-living crisis.

Some NHS trusts have reported paying staff in advance for fuel to get to work, while others have bought school uniforms for workers’ children. Nearly half have opened a food bank for staff, or are planning to do so.

Miriam Deakin, director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers — the organisation which shared the findings, said: ‘The NHS already had a problem with vacancies and our fear is that will just get worse.’  

Latest data from the ONS shows infections in England jumped by more than a tenth to 857,400 in the space of just three days to September 17, with one in 65 thought to be carrying the virus.

The figures, based on swabs taken from thousands of Britons, suggest that Covid rates in Wales jumped 58 per cent in a week. Some 62,900 people thought to be infected, equating to one in 50 people.

Meanwhile, 98,800 people in Scotland are carrying the virus, the equivalent of one in 55, jumping 19 per cent in a week.

Northern Ireland, where ONS figures show 22,900 are positive for Covid, saw cases rise by less than one per cent, with just one in 80 infected.

Separate data from the Zoe Health Study, which is based on symptoms reported by volunteers across the country, suggests of one in 32 people in the UK had symptomatic Covid at the start of this week, with rates rising in all age groups.

Professor Tim Spector, co-founder of the Zoe study, said: ‘It’s clear we’re now seeing an autumn wave of Covid, combined with increases in hospital admissions.

‘With rates on the rise, especially in the vulnerable elderly age groups, the impact on hospitalisations could be higher.’

Hospitals have already started cancelling scheduled operations amid ‘extreme pressures’ due to ‘high numbers’ of patients showing up at emergency departments and the bed blocking crisis.

Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and Sherwood Forest Hospital NHS Trust said the situation had forced them to declare a ‘critical incident’, with patients facing long waits to access hospital beds.

To combat pressures, planned operations involving an overnight stay were postponed so emergency patients ‘with the most urgent clinical need’ could be prioritised.

The move comes despite the UK only being in the early days of autumn, with health chiefs warning the pressures on the NHS are set to worsen.

Officials this week warned of a ‘twindemic’ in the coming weeks, with both Covid and flu expected to be circulating in high levels.

Flu, which killed 10,000 to 20,000 Britons per year before the pandemic, is expected to make a resurgence. But the wave — which experts fear with last longer and hit more than ever before — hasn’t even started yet.

Ministers have warned of a ‘triple-whammy’ from both viruses and the cost-of-living crisis, which is expected to cause the public’s health to deteriorate.

A survey of 2,000 Britons earlier this year found more than half reported that their health had worsened amid spiraling bills. Eight in 10 blamed rising heating costs, while three-quarters pointed to soaring food costs.

With a surge in people seeking hospital care due to Covid, flu and the economic crisis in the coming weeks, the cancellation of more routine operations could be on the horizon.

Millions of procedures were cancelling during the first wave of the pandemic, as hospitals prepared to treat an influx of those sickened with the virus.

And thousands more were cancelled last year — despite the successful vaccine rollout and the virus not posing enough of a threat to bring in Covid restrictions.

Covid hospitalisation data shows 7,024 infected patients were taking up hospital beds by 8am on Wednesday — up 37 per cent in a week and the highest figure in more than two months.

Patient numbers had been falling since mid-July from a peak of 14,000, which was triggered by the Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5. 

But this decline came to a halt in mid-September.

The latest figures show all regions are recording a rise in patients, with south-west England back to levels last seen at the end of July.

However, numbers remain well below the 34,000 in January 2021, before the Covid vaccines rollout had taken effect.

The rate of daily virus hospital admissions is also increasing, with 7.6 admissions per 100,000 people in the week to September 25, up from five the previous week.

Rates are highest among people aged 85 and over, at 82 per 100,000.

This is up sharply from 49.4 and is the highest rate for this age group since mid-August.

However, six in 10 so-called Covid patients were primarily admitted to hospital for another ailment — and just happened to test positive.

However, health chiefs say the infected still pile pressures on hospitals, because they have to be isolated from patients who are not infected. 


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