More than half of all major hospital trusts in England currently have more Covid-19 patients than at the height of the first virus wave, new analyzes show.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan declared a “major incident”, saying the spread of the coronavirus threatens to overwhelm the capital’s hospitals.
In two regions – East England and South East England – more than three-quarters of the trusts are above their first wave peak.
Other trusts have grown so rapidly in numbers that they have peaked in the first wave within days.
Analysis by the PA news agency found that of 139 acute hospital trusts reporting numbers for Jan. 5, 84 – or 60% – had more Covid-19 patients than at the height of the first wave in spring 2020.
- East Suffolk & North Essex, which confirmed 367 Covid-19 patients as of 8 a.m. on Jan. 5, compared to a first wave peak of 143
- Barts in London, where there were 830 Covid-19 patients on Jan. 5, compared to a first wave peak of 606
- Portsmouth Hospitals University with 457 patients compared to a first wave peak of 244
- Derby and Burton University Hospitals had 426 patients, up from a peak in the first wave of 252. By Friday, the number had risen to 436, Trust said
- Hull University teaching hospitals, where the number was 208 on Jan. 5, compared to a first wave peak of 112
The hospitals in Ipswich and Colchester are “full” while the NHS is facing a “very, very serious situation,” said the executive director of the NHS East Suffolk and the North Essex NHS Foundation Trust.
Nick Hulme told BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “The real picture is certainly for the two hospitals I am responsible for – Ipswich and Colchester – that we are full.
“The problem with looking at capacity or occupancy data is that it doesn’t give an accurate picture. An empty bed is not necessarily an available bed because we have to keep some beds empty to control infection.”
He said there had been a lot of “very harmful” misinformation being “circulated by some people on social media and elsewhere” that he described as “really daunting”.
Mr Hulme added, “The picture is that this is a very, very serious situation for the NHS, the worst I’ve seen in a long time in my career and we have to be honest.”
Gavin Boyle, executive director of the Derby University Hospitals and Burton NHS Foundation Trust, said they plan to continue expanding their critical care capacity.
On a blog on the Trust website, he said: “Our intensive care units have been operating well above base capacity for many weeks.
“However, given the experience in London and the Southeast, we plan to further increase our intensive care capacities.”
He said reducing scheduled chores such as routine surgeries, ambulances and diagnostic appointments to allow staff to support areas like critical care was “a bitter pill to swallow” after efforts were made over the summer and fall restore services to patients after the first wave.
Mr Khan said the situation in London was “now critical” as the virus has spread “out of control”.
He said: “Our heroic doctors, nurses and NHS staff are doing an excellent job, but with cases growing so rapidly, our hospitals are at risk of being overwhelmed. The dire reality is we won’t have any beds for patients for the next few weeks unless the spread of the virus slows down drastically.
“We are declaring a major incident because the threat this virus poses to our city is in crisis. If we don’t take immediate action now, our NHS could be overwhelmed and more people will die. “
A majority of the acute trusts in London – 14 out of 23 – currently have higher patient scores than they did at the height of the first wave.
The same goes for the South West of England (11 out of 15) and the Midlands (16 out of 23).
In South East England (15 out of 18) and East England (13 out of 14) the proportion is even higher.
In northern England, however, most trusts are still below their first wave peak.
Some trusts in northern areas hit record highs in the fall and then fell back before Christmas, only to rise more recently.
One example is the Liverpool University Hospitals Trust, which peaked at 475 patients on October 30th, followed by falling to 112 by December 13th, which is now 248.
Acute Trusts manage all major hospitals in England with A&E departments, inpatient and outpatient surgeries and specialized medical care.
The total number of Covid-19 patients in all hospitals in England – including mental health and community trusts – is currently 28,246. This is 49% above the first wave peak of 18,974 on April 12th.
All figures are based on the latest available data from NHS England.