One London hospital declared a major incident at the weekend, diverting patients to other hospitals over fears it would run out of oxygen supplies.
Sir Simon, the chief executive of NHS England, called 2020 “the toughest year most of us can remember” in a message recorded at a Covid-19 vaccination centre yesterday.
“That is certainly true across the health service where we have been responding to the worst pandemic in a century,” he said.
“Many of us have lost family, friends, colleagues and – at a time of year when we would normally be celebrating – a lot of people are understandably feeling anxious, frustrated and tired.
“And now again we are back in the eye of the storm with a second wave of coronavirus sweeping Europe and, indeed, this country.”
NHS England figures revealed there were 20,426 coronavirus patients in hospital on Monday morning, compared with the peak of 18,974 on April 12.
Sir Simon said the pandemic had helped to “bring out the best in people”, hailing the work of NHS staff as well as the “superb work of neighbours and volunteers and carers and care home staff”.
Sounding a note of optimism, he added: “We think that by late spring with vaccine supplies continuing to come on stream we will have been able to offer all vulnerable people across this country Covid vaccination.
“That perhaps provides the biggest chink of hope for the year ahead.”
Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, president of the Doctors’ Association UK, warned last night of “critical PPE shortages” and said she and her colleagues are “at breaking point”.
“We are incredibly thin on the ground. NHS staff have not been prioritised for the vaccine and are going off sick in droves with the new strain”, she wrote.
“Trusts are so desperate they are tweeting out for medical students to help in ICU. This was confirmed by a consultant on the ground.
“When staff have spoken up on Twitter they have been told this is all a hoax. It’s not.
“Try holding an iPad for a patient to say goodbye to their family. Or having to ventilate a colleague. This is real and happening right now. Staff are broken and need support now more than ever.”
This weekend, Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust declared a major incident at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, asking paramedics to take emergency patients to other hospitals.
The incident stemmed from concerns that the hospital would not be able to deliver enough oxygen supplies due to the sheer number of coronavirus patients, The Independent reported.