COVID-19: Claims hospitals are not struggling are a 'lie' - with 50% more inpatients than at peak of first wave

·3-min read

Claims that hospitals are not under pressure from surging numbers of people suffering badly with coronavirus are a "lie", the chief executive of NHS England has said.

Speaking at a Downing Street briefing, Sir Simon Stevens said false claims on social media could change behaviour in a way that would cause more deaths.

In his condemnation of those who allege the COVID crisis in hospitals is a "hoax", Sir Simon said: "You are not only responsible for potentially changing behaviour that will kill people.

"But it is an insult to the nurse coming home from 12 hours in critical care, having worked her guts out under the most demanding and trying of circumstances.

"There is nothing more demoralising than having that kind of nonsense spouted when it is most obviously untrue."

And he was backed by the prime minister, who also hit out at those who were dismissive of the pressures on hospitals.

"The kind of people who stand outside hospitals and say 'COVID is a hoax' and this kind of stuff, really I do think they need to grow up," Boris Johnson said.

"You heard eloquently from the head of NHS England the pressure the NHS is under and we've all got to do our bit, responsibly, to protect it.

"For a lot of us, the vast majority of the country, that means making sure we stay at home and protect the NHS.

"For people who are getting invited to get a vaccine, go and get the jab."

Sir Simon had earlier outlined the current challenges facing the NHS in England, describing how there are now 50% more coronavirus patients in hospitals now than during the peak of the first wave of infections last April.

"That is true in every region in the country now - more COVID inpatients than back in April," he said.

"That number is accelerating very, very rapidly."

Sir Simon said there had been an increase of 10,000 coronavirus patients in hospitals since Christmas Day.

"That's the equivalent of filling 20 acute hospitals with extra coronavirus patients," he added.

"And, of course, many of those will be patients who've caught the infection between Christmas and New Year, given the delay between catching infection and becoming seriously ill."

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Compared to last year's first wave of COVID infections, Sir Simon said the situation was now more severe as hospitals are now also caring for many more non-coronavirus patients than they were last year.

He described a "very serious" situation in London and across parts of the South East, with 800 patients a day admitted to the capital's hospitals with coronavirus.

"That is the equivalent of a new St Thomas' hospital full of COVID patients, fully staffed, every day, or a new University College Hospital, full of coronavirus patients every day," Sir Simon added.

"So it is absolutely vital that the measures that are now in force do begin to have an impact on slowing and cutting the infections across London and the rest of the country."

He said London hospitals were expanding their number of beds, making use of private hospitals and that London's NHS Nightingale Hospital is planned to open next week.

The specially-constructed facility, housed at the Excel convention centre, would also soon serve as one of the country's large vaccination centres, Sir Simon said.