Covid-19 patients ‘to be treated at home’ under emergency NHS plans

·3-min read

Thousands of Covid-19 patients will be treated in their own homes under emergency NHS plans, it has been reported.

‘Virtual wards’ will be expanded in a bid to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed by Omicron, according to the Sunday Times.

The measures could see around 15 per cent of Covid patients treated at home, with their oxygen levels monitored remotely.

The so-called ‘virtual wards’ will be used for people who are found to need care but not hospital treatment.

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England’s medical director, said the health service was on a “war footing”, with Omicron expected to continue causing a “wave of admissions” in January.

“We can’t expect to wait”, he told the paper.

“We expect we will see a substantial number of hospitalisations in January. This time last year we had just over 15,000 patients in hospital, and by the middle of January we had nearly 35,000.

“Once hospitalisations start to increase, they can increase very quickly, so it’s important the NHS prepares.

“The NHS is on a war footing once again.”

The plans mean the NHS will have more beds available for patients requiring emergency care.

The service is aiming to discharge up to 10,000 patients before the start of January, the paper reports, adding that all patients sent into care homes will be tested first.

Professor Ted Baker, the chief inspector of hospitals at England’s Care Quality Commission, said: “I’ve been talking to staff who are very distressed about some of the care they’re having to provide in corridors. People waiting on trolleys to be admitted are often very frail and they suffer harm from just waiting on trolleys.

“We described 2019 as the worst ever winter in the NHS, and that was before Covid hit. The situation now is worse. We do need to face up to the fact that we have, as a whole system, not brought about the changes in emergency care we needed to do.”

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said unvaccinated people are “taking up hospital beds” that could be used for someone else.

Speaking on Trevor Phillips On Sunday on Sky News, Mr Javid said 10% of the population – more than five million people – still had not received their jabs, and around nine out of 10 of those needing the most care in hospital were unvaccinated.

And he said: “I just cannot emphasise enough the impact that they are having on the rest of society.

“They must really think about the damage they are doing to society by… they take up hospital beds that could have been used for someone with maybe a heart problem, or maybe someone who is waiting for elective surgery.

“But instead of protecting themselves and protecting the community they choose not to get vaccinated. They are really having a damaging impact and I just can’t stress enough, please do come forward and get vaccinated.”

Minutes from a Sage meeting on Thursday said stricter measures could be needed including “reducing group sizes, increasing physical distancing, reducing duration of contacts and closing high-risk premises”.

The experts warned that even if transmission rates were reduced, hospital admission levels were likely to be between 1,000 and 2,000 per day in England by the end of the year.

And modelling showed that if ministers stuck to the current Plan B measures, there would be a peak of 3,000 per day.

It comes as the number of deaths in England of people with the Omicron variant has risen to seven, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said, from the previous figure of one

Hospital admissions in England for people with confirmed or suspected Omicron rose to 85, from 65.

The UKHSA said there had been 10,059 additional confirmed cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 reported across the UK on Saturday.

This brings the total confirmed cases of the variant in the UK to 24,968.

It comes after reports that officials had drawn up plans for a two-week circuit breaker lockdown after Christmas.

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