LONDON hospitals are days away from being overwhelmed by Covid in the best case scenario, new reports claim.
NHS England’s London medical director Vin Diwakar revealed the capital’s hospitals could run out of beds by January 19.
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Dr Diwakar delivered the bleak news to London’s hospital trust directors via a zoom call yesterday, according to medical journal HSJ.
In the “official briefing”, three possible outcomes were discussed.
Even if Covid hospital admissions grew at the lowest estimated rate, London’s hospitals would be short of almost 2,000 general and acute (G&A) and intensive care beds by 19 January.
But in any scenario, there is the potential for bed shortages in a matter of days.
The “best” scenario detailed a four per cent daily growth in hospital admissions; “average” predicted a five per cent daily growth; and the “worse” scenario prepared for a staggering six per cent daily jump in London Covid patients.
On January 5, hospital admissions growth was 3.5 per cent for general and accute beds 4.8 per cent for ICU beds across the capital.
Medical director Dr Diwakar later told HSJ: “Hospitals in London are coming under significant pressure from high Covid-19 infection rates which is why they have opened hundreds of surge critical care beds and are planning to open more, including opening the London Nightingale.”
A consultant today said there was a real risk the NHS could be overwhelmed within two weeks across the country if the lockdown is not taken seriously.
Asked if he believes the health service could be overwhelmed within two weeks, intensive care professor Rupert Pearse told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I never thought in my entire career that I might say something like this but yes I do.
“Unless we take the lockdown seriously the impact on healthcare for the whole country could be catastrophic. And I don’t say those words lightly.”
In normal circumstances, guidelines state a patient to nurse ratio of 1:1. But this has been relaxed several times during the pandemic.
Prof Pearse said: “We would normally want one fully trained intensive care nurse per intensive care patient, right now we’re down to one nurse to three and filling those gaps with untrained staff.
“And we’re now faced with diluting that even further to one in four and as intensive care doctors we’re not sure how together we can deliver the quality of care we need to.
“The problem’s not just in London, the problem’s now spreading across the UK.”
Neither is the problem confined to intensive care, he said, with respiratory wards, geriatric wards and primary care affected.
SHARP RISE IN ADMISSIONS
The grim news arrives as hospitals across Britain are seeing a surge in Covid admissions – with fears many could buckle under the pressure.
Patients with the virus have seen a record rise with 30,074 Brits now being treated in hospital for the disease.
Hospital bosses are seeking capacity from the care and nursing home sector as hospital beds fill up amid a coronavirus surge, the chief executive of NHS Providers said.
Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, said the number of Covid patients taken into hospital in the past week are the equivalent to ten hospitals worth.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This is escalating really quickly.
“We’ve seen 5,000 new patients in hospital beds with Covid-19 over the past week – that’s 10 full hospitals’ worth of Covid patients in hospitals in just seven days, so it’s a really big challenge.”
He said hospital bosses are seeking to take beds from care homes, Mr Hopson said.
“We are now reaching the point in some places where hospital beds are full, community beds are full and community at home services are also full.
“What trust leaders are trying to do is they know there is some spare capacity in the care and nursing home sector and they’re in the middle of conversation with care and nursing home colleagues to see if they can access that capacity.
“It’s literally leaving no stone unturned to maximise every single piece of capacity we’ve got in those areas under real pressure.”
Greater Manchester’s health chief yesterday warned the region’s hospitals are at risk of “falling over” in the next three weeks due to an “unprecedented” jump in Covid cases.
The sharp rise in Covid admissions mean cancer operations are very likely to be cancelled in the area.
And Sussex declared a “major incident” yesterday after Covid cases jumped throughout the region – leaving health services to face “unprecedented pressures”.
Buckinghamshire and Essex declared “major incidents” last week as a jump in cases led to fears local hospitals would crack under the pressure.
Essex called in the Army last Wednesday after overwhelmed hospitals began treating patients in the back of ambulances.
OFFICIALS SET TO REMOVE BODIES FROM HOMES
The news comes as police are preparing to send specialist teams to remove bodies of people who die of Covid at home as forecasters predict deaths could soon average 1,000 a day in the UK.
Police have put emergency service teams – combining officers, paramedic and fire service staff – at the ready after yesterday’s figures saw deaths rise by over 1,000 for the first time since April.
The Pandemic Multi-agency Response Teams will travel to houses, care homes and hospices where people are believed to have died from the virus.
Health service workers will be present to confirm death, while police officers will investigate the death and fire services will drive.
The measures are designed to ease demand on ambulance services – and teams will prepare bodies to be collected by an undertaker.
Covid deaths yesterday topped 1,000 for the first time since April as cases rocketed by 62,322 – the highest daily rise ever.
As cases continued to soar in the UK, Boris Johnson warned the national lockdown could last until the end of March in a bid to suppress transmissions.
The Prime Minister told MPs that only after the vaccine rollout is underway and the most vulnerable have been protected, will he consider lifting measures – with only the promise that “things will be much better by the spring” – and possibly as late as the end of March.