Hospitals in England are hurtling towards having 20,000 coronavirus patients who need NHS treatment on New Year’s Eve, according to dire projections that will bolster calls for No10 to introduce another draconian lockdown in 2021.
Department of Health statistics show 18,227 Covid-infected patients were being cared for in hospitals across the nation on Christmas Eve – a 15 per cent rise in a week. Top officials say a highly infectious strain spreading rapidly across the country is to blame.
For comparison, April 12 was the busiest day of the pandemic so far for hospitals in England, when 18,974 patients were occupying beds.
The Health Service Journal, a trade publication aimed at health bosses, has calculated that the number of Covid patients is rising by around 250 each day, meaning NHS England is ‘on course to exceed the first wave in the next few days and, possibly, top 20,000 on New Year’s Eve’.
Doctors fear the NHS could be ‘overwhelmed’ within days, with frontline medics in London describing hospitals as resembling war zones. And in chaotic scenes reminiscent of the darkest days of the first wave of Covid, hospitals in England have been urged to free up every possible bed ahead of the expected spike in patients.
Health bosses today insisted health service would ‘cope’ with the surge in patients, which will inevitably begin to ease over the next fortnight when the effects of the brutal Tier Four restrictions kick in.
But Dr Katherine Henderson, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, conceded there would be a ‘cost’ to pay, hinting that non-urgent treatment will have to be sacrificed once again. Thousands of patients were turfed out of hospital beds in the first wave to make room for an expected explosion in Covid admissions, which has left patients facing a huge backlog in getting their cancelled or postponed treatment.
NHS England data shows hospitals are still quieter than they were last winter, with just 88.6 per cent of available beds occupied in the week ending December 20, on average. But health chiefs say the statistics don’t reveal the extra strain posed by Covid, which has led to segregated wards, medics constantly using PPE and staff having to self-isolate. A lack of staff mean most of the Government’s mothballed Nightingale hospitals – built to give the NHS extra breathing room – are lying empty.
The fears come as millions more people in England face being plunged into Tier Four this week amid rising cases and hospitalisations. Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove today refused to rule out the gloomy prospect of the entire country being hit with the draconian restrictions, which effectively ban residents from leaving their home. Around 24million people are currently living under the strictest curbs, with London, the South East and East shut down to contain the virus. The next tier review will take place on December 30.
SAGE scientists have urged Boris Johnson to impose an even tougher third national lockdown including keeping all schools closed throughout January to curb the new mutant coronavirus strain – consigning millions of children to sub-standard online classes for at least a month.
Department of Health statistics show 18,227 Covid-infected patients were being cared for in hospitals across the nation on Christmas Eve – a 15 per cent rise in a week. Top officials say a highly infectious strain spreading rapidly across the country is to blame. For comparison, April 12 was the busiest day of the pandemic so far for hospitals in England, when 18,974 patients were occupying beds
The total number of patients in hospital with the virus is likely to exceed the peak from the first wave, with 21,286 coronavirus patients being treated on December 22 – the most recent day data is available for. In comparison, the figure on April 12 was 21,683
Millions more Britons face being plunged into Tier 4 this week as the mutant Covid-19 strain continues to spread across the country
Data shows how daily Covid admissions to to hospitals across the UK have risen since the end of November, after they dipped briefly because of England’s national lockdown
The UK reported 30,501 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, with a daily toll of 316 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test, government statistics showed
Just 388 people under 60 without health conditions have died of coronavirus in England’s hospitals
The figures show that 1,979 previously healthy people died in hospitals in England after testing positive for Covid-19 between April 2 and December 23. Just 338 of these people were aged 40 to 59, with another 44 aged between 20 and 39, and just six under the age of 19, according to the data
Just 388 people aged under 60 with no underlying health conditions have died of Covid-19 in England’s hospitals since the start of the pandemic, NHS data has showed.
The figures show that 1,979 previously healthy people died in hospitals in England after testing positive for Covid-19 between April 2 and December 23.
Just 338 of these people were aged 40 to 59, with another 44 aged between 20 and 39, and just six under the age of 19, according to the data.
Meanwhile 45,770 deaths were recorded among those with pre-existing conditions, of which 21 were aged under 20, 263 were between 20 and 39 and 2,926 were aged between 40 and 59.
Members of the Scottish Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties warned the mutant Covid strain – which officials have warned is up to 70 per cent more infectious – ‘could lead to the NHS being overwhelmed’, according to The Times.
And in another warning about the threat the NHS faces in dealing with the outbreak, the president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow has said non-urgent care will have to be paused in Scotland due to Covid.
Dr Jackie Taylor told BBC Breakfast that medics would have to focus on ‘urgent work’ and the roll-out of the vaccine programme before other treatments, such as hip and knee replacements, could take place. She said: ‘We want to be able to treat everyone, we want to ensure everyone gets the best of care, but unless we get a grip of Covid and really get on top of this then we won’t be able to open up the other services again.’
Her comments came after paramedics in the capital revealed they are receiving almost 8,000 call-outs daily, and Boxing Day was described as one of London Ambulance Service’s ‘busiest ever days’.
The 7,918 calls received by London Ambulance Service (LAS) on December 26 was up more than 2,500 on the 5,217 received on the same day last year, and medics are receiving support from other ambulance services in the South.
One paramedic said that crews were waiting around six-hours on average to hand over patients, who were often being treated in ambulance bays because of a lack of available bed. He told the BBC: ‘It’s been a horrendous time. Ambulance staff are finding the whole situation very stressful.’
South Central Ambulance Service, which serves Tier Four areas Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Hampshire, has also warned that it is ‘extremely busy’ and that 999 should only be dialled in a ‘life-threatening or serious emergency’.
Discussing the strain that the Covid outbreak has added to the NHS in England, Dr Henderson added: ‘We will stretch staff, the problem is at the moment we have a lot of staff sickness.
‘But we will stretch, we will work double shifts, we will pull people in off annual leave, we will have all sorts of people working, so we will cope.
‘But what you won’t see is what is overwhelmed, which is the attempt to keep other services going and we just won’t be able to do that, and people don’t see that.
‘It is always challenging in winter, nobody would say that it wasn’t, but at the moment the level of patient need is incredibly high and other things stop being able to be done.’
Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, responsible for Wales’ largest hospital called for urgent help at the weekend, asking for ‘assistance from medical students or other staff groups who have previously supported with proning patients’.
Meanwhile, NHS England warned that the entire health service will have to stay on its highest state of alert until at least the end of March due to an ongoing influx of patients, and hospitals have been told to free up every possible bed.
Infections soared by 57 per cent last week and the spread of the new strain is now taking hold further north after first being detected in Kent, reports The Times.
As a result millions more now face being told to ‘stay at home’ when the tiers are reviewed on Wednesday after a loosening of the rules over Christmas.
Some hospitals have even begun setting up makeshift intensive care beds in paediatric and cancer wards. Some trusts predict they will have a third or half of all of their beds filled with Covid patients by New Year’s Eve.
Michael Griffin, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, said that January and February will be ‘critical’ as he recommended a nationwide Tier Four.
The most up-to-date seven-day hospital admission average is 1,984. Hospital admissions are currently at a higher figure than the week before the second lockdown – where there was a seven-day average of 1,191.
One senior government official warned the new strain of Covid had overtaken the old and was ‘running rampant’ in the UK.
The rate of infection is causing the government to ramp up its vaccination programme, with hundreds of pop-up GP-led centres on the way as part of a huge drive.
Doctors treat a patient suffering from coronavirus on an intensive care ward at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey during the first wave of the pandemic
The Scottish Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties has warned the UK could be facing a ‘perfect storm’ of problems if the spread of the virus isn’t dealt with, despite the widespread rollout of vaccinations. Pictured: Doreen Brown, 85, receives the first of two Pfizer Covid-19 vaccinations at Guy’s Hospital, London, on December 8
With approval for the Oxford vaccine set to come as early as today, Government sources told the Mail that town halls and village community centres are poised to help roll out the jab to millions as quickly as possible.
The centres will be staffed by GPs, nurses, paramedics and pharmacists, with the aim to open the first of them next week.
An army of more than 10,000 volunteers and medics have been recruited by the NHS to help deliver the Oxford vaccine after its approval, it has emerged.
In other coronavirus developments today:
- Secondary schools will be shut for at least the first week of term apart from for children in years 11 and 13 – but primary schools will be open as usual from Monday, Michael Gove said;
- Hundreds of British tourists forced into quarantine at a Swiss ski resort have fled in the night rather than seeing their holidays go downhill;
- Teachers and key workers are expected to be added to the coronavirus vaccine priority list when the Oxford University/AstraZeneca jab is approved, with officials set to give it the green light within days;
- SAGE experts have warned Britain won’t curb the pandemic by February even if it starts to vaccine one million people each week, and that herd immunity isn’t likely to kick in until the summer;
- Hundreds of pop-up GP-led centres are on the way as part of a huge vaccination drive which has seen the NHS recruit an army of more than 10,000 volunteers, it was revealed.
The next tier review is on December 30 and infections continue to climb and hospital admissions increase. Pictured are Boxing Day shoppers in Tier 3 Nottingham
It comes as scientists have warned that the whole of England should be put into Tier 4 immediately to stop the spread of the new mutant coronavirus strain.
SAGE have said thousands more people will now be infected in the new year, with one of their experts Dr Zubaida Haque yesterday questioning why the government haven’t placed the whole country under the toughest restrictions to save lives.
She tweeted: ‘Given that we surpassed 70,000 #COVID19 deaths in UK on Christmas Day, and there are now more patients with coronavirus in hospital than at any point in the pandemic, why hasn’t the government implemented #tier4 restrictions everywhere in the UK? @IndependentSage are very worried.
‘One in TEN hospital workers are off sick or isolating’ as coronavirus hits NHS
Covid advisor to the British Medical Association, Dr David Strain, has claimed that the shortages mean there are not enough staff to re-open the Nightingale hospitals.
The sickness figure also includes staff who are self-isolating following contact with with people who have tested positive outside of work.
‘The NHS has been running on just about enough doctors and nurses for 10 to 15 years. So with up to 10 per cent of healthcare workers off sick, there are no longer enough,’ Dr Strain, a hospital consultant in Exeter, told the Sunday Mirror.
He explained how the ‘staffing crisis’ poses a threat to derail the NHS in the battle against an increase in Covid-19 cases.
‘Given the crisis situation we’re in with the highest number of daily deaths with #COVID19 in 2nd wave, with 1000’s more likely to be infected because of relaxation of rules in tier 1-3 on Christmas Day AND failed govt’s test & trace system, we need #tier4 everywhere now to save lives.’
There were 231 deaths in England yesterday, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 48,542 – within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test- NHS England said on Sunday.
In England the patients were aged between 30 and 103. All except five, aged between 36 and 85, had known underlying health conditions. The deaths were between December 9 and 26.
The mutant strain of coronavirus has sparked fear as the number of cases rise dramatically, especially in London and the Home Counties.
And researchers have now said there is ‘some evidence that the increase may be particularly marked in children’, which raises the question of whether schools should open in January after the Christmas break.
The new variant will lead to a wave of coronavirus cases and deaths that will peak in spring 2021 for London, the South East and east of England, they said.
Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire moved into Tier 4, created in response to a variant of Covid-19 discovered in the UK, on Saturday.
The parts of Essex still in Tier 2, Waverley in Surrey and Hampshire including Portsmouth and Southampton, but with the exception of the New Forest, also moved into the toughest tier.
The additional six million that went into Tier 4 took the total number of people under the toughest restrictions to 24 million – 43 per cent of England’s population. A further 24.8 million moved to Tier 3.
It came after many had to make the most of a Christmas Day already under Tier 4 restrictions in London and the south east.
It comes after the top boss of Oxford vaccine maker AstraZeneca said researchers have worked out a ‘winning formula’ to boost the jab’s efficacy, with ministers hoping it will bring an end to the cycle of lockdowns within months.
Pascal Soriot, chief executive of the British-Swedish pharmaceutical firm, says a two-dose method can push the vaccine’s efficacy rate near to that of rivals Pfizer and Moderna.
His comments come as officials reportedly prepare to approve the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab as early as tomorrow.
Visitors look at a light installation in Canary Wharf in London with the capital remaining quiet after new tier changes came into force in England
Boris Johnson vows to focus on ‘levelling-up’ Britain and ‘spreading opportunity’ after securing post-Brexit trade deal with EU
Boris Johnson has promised to focus on ‘levelling up’ Britain in the wake of securing the country’s departure from the EU.
The Prime Minister said he wants to ‘spread opportunity’ as he hopes to take advantage of his new freedoms.
He claims the deal will help him ‘deliver for people who felt left behind’, despite some criticising the agreement he struck at the eleventh hour.
Boris Johnson has promised to focus on ‘levelling up’ Britain in the wake of securing the country’s departure from the EU. Rishi Sunak congratulated Mr Johnson on securing the post-Brexit trade deal with the EU in what he hailed an ‘enormously unifying moment for our country’
Hospitals set up makeshift Covid intensive care beds in children’s wards
Health chiefs have warned that hospitals are bracing themselves by setting up makeshift Covid intensive care beds in children’s wards under ‘surge capacity measures’.
Yesterday it was confirmed cases had increased by a third since last Saturday as 34,693 people tested positive in England and Wales alone amid a new highly-infectious strain of coronavirus.
The increase in infections has prompted health bosses to warn that hospital admissions could overtake the highest figure of 21,683 recorded during the first wave.
According to the Sunday Times, hospitals have been ordered to prepare ‘surge capacity’ measures with some trusts setting up makeshift intensive care beds in paediatric and cancer wards.
A senior government official told the Sunday Times the new strain of Covid had overtaken the old and was ‘running rampant’ in the UK.
The warning comes after a leaked memo revealed the imminent pressure facing the NHS.
The six-page memo, which was sent to hospital bosses last Wednesday, confirmed that Covid hospital admissions were ‘rising in almost all parts of the country’ as NHS chief operating officer Amanda Pritchard instructed bosses to prepare.
Mr Johnson told The Sunday Telegraph: ‘This government has a very clear agenda to use this moment to unite and level up and to spread opportunity across the government.’
MPs are due to vote on the deal in the Commons on Wednesday and Sir Keir Starmer has confirmed his party will support the Government in a bid to avoid a no deal scenario.
The Labour leader said it was a ‘thin deal’ that would need more work to secure jobs and industries in the UK.
And Johnson even acknowledged that the deal ‘perhaps does not go as far as we would like’ on financial services.
But he said Britain can now diverge from the EU and go its own way in areas such as animal welfare, data and chemicals.
But Rishi Sunak congratulated the PM on securing the trade deal in what he hailed an ‘enormously unifying moment for our country’.
The Chancellor, who was accused of being ‘absent’ in the run up to Christmas, said the agreement was a good deal for British families, businesses and jobs.
He also addressed concerns over the future of financial services, saying Brexit would offer ‘a chance to do things differently’ in the City of London after no agreement was reached for ‘equivalence’ on selling financial services into the single market.
Speaking from Richmond, Yorkshire, Mr Sunak said: ‘I think this deal represents one of the most comprehensive free trade agreements ever signed and it’s a good deal for British families, businesses and jobs.
‘It gives us a fantastic platform to go forward, maintain tariff-free access to European markets but also capitalise on new opportunities.’
But former Irish PM Leo Varadkar warned that the UK’s access to the European market is ‘not unconditional’ and they must continue to follow some EU rules.
Responding to the Prime Minister’s announcement of a deal being reached with the EU, Sir Keir Starmer said: ‘It is not the deal that the Government promised – far from it.’
‘A better deal could have been negotiated. But I accept that option has now gone. At a moment of such national significance, it is just not credible for Labour to be on the sidelines.
‘That is why I can say today that when this deal comes before Parliament, Labour will accept it and vote for it.’