Fifty percent more coronavirus patients are in England’s hospitals compared to the first peak in April, latest data shows.
And a startling 10,000 more patients are being treated in hospital now for Covid than on Christmas Day – a surge of patients that would fill 20 hospitals.
The pressures on the health service were laid bare by NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens during a sombre Downing Street address on Thursday.
He said most of the extra 10,000 patients will have caught Covid between Christmas and New Year.
He also warned there were just 39 days left to meet the target set by the Prime Minister to vaccinate the most vulnerable.
Sir Simon said cases – brought on by a mutated strain of the killer bug – are “accelerating very, very rapidly”, with 30,000 currently in hospital.
He added: “The pressures are real and they are growing, and that is why it is vital that we all take the steps necessary to control the growth of infection.”
Eight hundred new sufferers are being admitted to London hospitals alone each day, with the capital’s temporary Nightingale facility set to begin taking in patients again from next week.
Britain’s daily death toll stood at 1,162 on Thursday — the second highest of the pandemic — with the overall total now at 78,508.
It comes as leaked reports state hospitals in London are less than two weeks away from being overwhelmed with Covid-19 admissions, even in the “best case scenario”.
According to an NHS presentation, seen by the Health Service J ournal, hospitals in the capital will be short of nearly 2,000 general and acute and intensive care beds by January 19.
And that is even if numbers grow at the lowest rate and measures to sustain demand – such as re-opening Nightingale hospitals – prove effective, NHS England London medical director Vin Diwaka told medical directors of London’s hospital trusts.
Public Health England figures, meanwhile, reveal the surge is dwarfing yearly flu admissions, with 5.5 per million hospitalised last in 2019-2020, compared to 17.
Boris Johnson yesterday told Covid deniers spreading anti-vaccine propaganda are putting lives at risk and need to “grow up”.
Sir Simon said Covid deniers spreading anti-vaccine propaganda are contributing to people dying from the virus.
In sentiments echoed by Boris Johnson, who told such people to “grow up”, the health chief said claims that hospitals are not under pressure from the rising coronavirus cases were a “lie”.
He said false claims on social media were changing behaviour in a way that could kill people and an “insult” to staff working in critical care.
“There is nothing more demoralising than having that kind of nonsense spouted when it is most obviously untrue,” he told the No10 news conference.
He went on to say, there will be a “huge acceleration” in the vaccination programme over the coming weeks in order to reach targets.
“We need a huge acceleration if we are, over the next five weeks, going to vaccinate more people than we typically vaccinate over five months during a winter flu programme,” he said.
He said the “bulk” of the vaccinations would be carried out at GP surgeries and pharmacies, but that the number of hospital hubs and large-scale vaccination centres were also being increased.
It comes following news critically ill Covid-19 patients admitted to intensive care units will be able to receive new drugs that can “significantly” reduce the risk of death as well as time spent in hospital by up to 10 days.
NHS patients will have access to tocilizumab and sarilumab – which are typically used to treat rheumatoid arthritis – under updated guidance due to be issued by the Government and the NHS to trusts across the UK.