Hospitals had to lower their standards of care after the number of Covid patients doubled in a month, NHS chiefs warned last night.
There are now a record 26,626 virus patients in England's hospitals, 33 percent more than the April high of 18,974 and 12,987 on December 4th.
Senior doctors warned the NHS could peak soon as infections continue to rise. An all-time high of 58,784 positive cases was recorded yesterday.
Latest data shows 3,145 patients were admitted to hospitals in England on Saturday. NHS chiefs said the surge in Covid admissions in the nine days since Christmas alone was enough to fill 18 full hospitals.
Another 407 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were recorded yesterday, bringing the total to 75,431.
Dr. Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director for Public Health England said: "The continued rise in cases and deaths should be a bitter warning to all of us."
NHS chiefs said pressure on hospitals will continue to increase in January because infection rates are so high.
ICUs say they are already “stretched past the break”. The usual ratio of one nurse per patient is relaxed, so that they care for up to three patients. The shortage of nurses also means that in some hospitals, including the Royal London, NHS counselors have worked as nurses in intensive care units.
Danny Mortimer, chairman of the board of directors of the NHS confederation, which represents hospitals, said staff were "compromising" standards of care because of "relentless" pressure. He said, “(Hospitals) are taking their staff and distributing them thinner. There will be two or three nurses attending an outpatient unit, when there are usually five or six.
ICUs say they are already “stretched past the break”. The usual ratio of one nurse per patient is relaxed, so that they care for up to three patients
"There probably isn't an ICU in the country where the nurse-to-patient ratio in the ICU is one-to-one."
Thousands of non-urgent surgeries such as knee or hip surgeries have been canceled to make way for virus patients. Mr. Mortimer added: “The pressure is affecting other services.
"We have now had six days (in a row) with more than 50,000 confirmed infections. Our members are very, very concerned.
“They know that increasing infections lead to increased intakes, resulting in death and harm to patients. You have to ask the staff and compromise on service standards.
“We assume that January and February will get worse and worse. The current experience in London will be felt in the rest of the country. There will be fewer staff, people will wait much longer, and rescue workers will be significantly late.
Chris Hopson, executive director of NHS Providers (pictured) said hospitals are filling "at a deeply alarming rate".
"Our teams are not going to let the NHS collapse, but we need public help." Dave Carr, an intensive care nurse in London, said there were "scenes of real chaos, confusion and pressure in hospitals".
He added, “Our intensive care units are stretched beyond breaking. In ITUs across London, these nurses look after three patients with ventilators. It's absolutely devastating, it breaks us. "
Separate NHS figures from the Health Service Journal show that at least 2,930 people spent at least 12 hours on a cart in December. The highest number to date was 2,847 in January 2020.
Although London and the South East remain the hardest hit part of the country, data shows that the NHS has problems in every region. According to England's largest hospital trust, the University Hospitals Birmingham, ITU bed occupancy is currently 98 percent.
Thousands of non-urgent surgeries such as knee or hip surgeries have been canceled to make way for virus patients. Pictured: File picture of ambulance outside Southend University Hospital in Essex on December 31, 2020
Dr. Nick Scriven, President of the Society of Acute Medicine, said, "Covid patients increasingly need hospital care so beds fill up and stay filled longer … and if you add a fraction of the" normal ". Winter pressure, it could get bad quickly.
"Also, it could be extremely difficult in the next ten to 21 days as the effects of people catching Covid over Christmas / New Years become apparent. I think the NHS may well have reached a "maximum" stage, but that will really manifest itself in the cancellation of all non-acute work. "
Chris Hopson, executive director of NHS Providers, said hospitals are filling "at a deeply alarming rate," adding, "Today's numbers show that in the ten days since Christmas we have seen nearly 9,000 more Covid patients in hospital beds .
"That corresponds to 18 hospitals with new Covid patients in ten days. The new variant has changed the rules."
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