21 January 2021

Hospitals still in ‘precarious’ position, warns medic

21 January 2021

Hospitals remain in a “precarious” situation under the strain of Covid-19 patients, but there are some “glimmers” of hope with the impact of lockdown, a top medic has said.

Healthcare staff remain under intense pressure amid the pandemic, said Dr Vin Diwakar, NHS England regional medical director for London.

He spoke as figures showed more than three-quarters of major hospital trusts in England currently have more Covid-19 patients than at the peak of the first wave of the virus.

Some 115 out of 140 acute NHS trusts were recording a higher number of Covid-19 patients at 8am on January 19 this year than at any point between mid-March and the end of May 2020.

This includes 13 of the 14 acute trusts in eastern England, 14 of the 15 acute trusts in south-west England, and all 19 acute trusts in south-east England.

Covid-19 patients in hospital in England (PA Graphics)

The figures, which have been published on the Government’s coronavirus dashboard, also show that 31 of the 140 acute trusts were recording their highest ever number of Covid-19 patients on January 19.

Meanwhile, NHS England data showed one in 10 major hospital trusts had no spare adult critical care beds last week.

Some 15 out of 140 acute trusts reported 100% occupancy of all “open” beds each day from January 11 to 17.

These included University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, one of the largest trusts in England, along with Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust and Dartford & Gravesham NHS Trust, both in south-east England.

Dr Diwakar told the the Downing Street press briefing: “The situation in our hospitals in the NHS remains really precarious.

“In London, more than half of all patients in hospital are being treated for coronavirus and sadly over 1,000 patients died in hospital in London just last week, every single one a tragedy.

“Nationally, there are 34,000 people in hospital and pressure remains intense on our staff.”

He said there are some “early signs of hope” in pressures easing on aspects of the health service, but that the numbers of patients in intensive care in London was still rising due to people becoming more unwell around a week into having the virus.

Covid-19 hospital admissions in England (PA Graphics)

He said: “It is very early but we are seeing some glimmers of the impact of the lockdown in the NHS.

“In our general and acute beds, in 999 and in the 111 service we’ve seen the number of people with coronavirus falling since the last week.

“But that has not fed through to intensive care, the most seriously ill people. That is because in this illness people become more unwell at about seven-10 days into the illness, that’s when they deteriorate and go into hospital and may need intensive care.

“So actually in London the numbers of patients in intensive care went up yesterday, it didn’t go down.

“So it is far too early to be thinking about the lockdown but there are early signs of hope because the lockdown measures we currently have in place do appear to be having an impact.”

People under the age of 55 accounted for just over a fifth of Covid-19 admissions to major hospitals in England in the week to January 15, broadly unchanged from the previous week.

The data, from NHS England, also showed that people aged 85 and over accounted for 20% of admissions in both weeks.

The figures cover all patients admitted to acute hospital trusts in the preceding 24 hours who were known to have Covid-19, plus any patients diagnosed in hospital with Covid-19 in the previous 24 hours.

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