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Coronavirus UK: NHS chief Sir Simon Stevens says claims hospitals are empty are ‘lies’

The chief of the NHS today slammed ‘lies’ and ‘nonsense’ claims that hospitals are empty as Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Covid deniers to ‘grow up’.

Speaking together at a Downing Street press conference, the PM and Sir Simon Stevens said downplaying the seriousness of Covid was an ‘insult’ to NHS staff.

There are now more than 30,000 people in hospital with Covid-19 across the UK, more than there has ever been, and more than half a million people have been diagnosed with the virus in the past 10 days.

Darent Valley Hospital in Kent today upgraded its alert level and said it might have to stop offering critical care because it is now ‘overwhelmed’.

Kent has been at the heart of the second wave’s resurgence since a new, super-infectious variant of the virus emerged in the county and ripped through the South East.

It may be the canary in the coal mine as other hospitals say they are approaching crisis levels with patient numbers surging across the country after infections exploded over the Christmas period.

In London, NHS bosses have warned hospitals could be packed with coronavirus patients in less than two weeks even in a best case scenario, leading to health bosses scrambling to find extra capacity in care home and mothballed Nightingales.

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister

NHS chief Sir Simon Stevens (left) and Boris Johnson (right) today rounded on Covid deniers and said it was ‘lies’ and ‘nonsense’ to claim that hospitals aren’t busy with coronavirus patients

Darent Valley Hospital in Kent today upgraded its alert level and said it might have to stop offering critical care because it is now 'overwhelmed'

Darent Valley Hospital in Kent today upgraded its alert level and said it might have to stop offering critical care because it is now ‘overwhelmed’

Asked what he would say to people who don’t believe Covid is real or think warnings about how busy the NHS is aren’t true, Sir Simon said: ‘Let’s just be completely straightforward about it – when people say that it is a lie. 

‘If you sneak into a hospital in an empty corridor at nine o’clock at night and film that particular corridor, and then stick it up on social media and say “this proves the hospitals are empty, the whole thing is a hoax”, you are not only responsible for potentially changing behaviour that will kill people, but it is an insult to the nurse coming home from 12 hours in critical care having worked her guts out under the most demanding and trying of circumstances.

‘There is nothing more demoralising than having that kind of nonsense spouted when it is most obviously untrue.’

It comes just a week after a crowd of people not wearing masks were filmed chanting ‘Covid is a hoax’ outside St Thomas’ Hospital in London on New Year’s Eve while the city was in a Tier 4 lockdown.

At the time Dr Matthew Lee, a medic who filmed them and posted it online after his shift at the hospital, said the behaviour was ‘disgusting’.

Dr Lee said: ‘Hundreds of maskless, drunk people in huge groups shouting “Covid is a hoax”, literally outside the building where hundreds are sick and dying.

‘Why do people still not realise the seriousness of this pandemic?’

LONDON’S HOSPITALS ‘TO BE OVERWHELMED IN TWO WEEKS’

London’s hospitals will be overwhelmed by Covid-19 in less than two weeks even in a ‘best’ case scenario, an official briefing reportedly warns.

Medical director at NHS London Vin Diwakar provided the worrying analysis to medical directors of the capital’s hospital trusts over a Zoom call this afternoon.

Even if coronavirus patients grew at the lowest likely rate and capacity is increased – including opening the Nightingale – the NHS would still be short 2,000 general, acute and ICU beds by January 19, the HSJ reports.

Three scenarios are laid out in the report – ‘best’, ‘average’ and ‘worse’. These account for the impact of four per cent daily growth, five per cent growth and six per cent growth respectively.

Growth for beds on January 5 was 3.5 per cent, with the rate at 4.8 per cent for ICU beds, the report claimed. 

He later added: ‘I’m disgusted but mostly heartbroken. I wish people could see the amount of Covid-19 and deaths in hospitals, and the sacrifices that healthcare workers make.

‘This week alone has been so tough. Their ignorance is hurting others. I really wish people would keep themselves safe.’

At today’s press conference, Boris Johnson added: ‘The kind of people who stand outside of hospitals and say “Covid is a hoax” and this kind of stuff, I do think they need to grow up. 

‘You heard eloquently from the head of NHS England the pressure the NHS is under, and we’ve all got to do our bit responsibly to protect it.

‘For the vast majority of the country, that means making sure we stay at home and protect the NHS. For people who are getting invited to get a vaccine; go and get the jab.’ 

If further proof was needed of the strains being put on the NHS, a hospital in Kent today warned it might have to stop accepting critical care patients.

The Darent Valley Hospital, near Dartford, declared a ‘CRITCON level four’ alert on advice from NHS England which means it is ‘overwhelmed’, the Health Service Journal reported.

The alert level is described as rare and its official description says it means ‘Resources overwhelmed. Possibility of triage by resource (non-clinical refusal or withdrawal of critical care due to resource limitation)’.

Resource limitation means the hospital does not have enough staff, beds or other equipment to deal with the demands of its patients.

It could mean the hospital has to ship critically ill patients out to other hospitals in the region.

NHS figures show the Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, had 268 patients with Covid-19 on January 5, the latest data.

Leaked reports published by the HSJ showed that 84 per cent of its inpatients were people with coronavirus and none of its 20 intensive care beds have been free all week.


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