London hospitals yet to see surge in elderly Covid patients

·3-min read
Older people’s mental health could be deteriorating due to the pandemic, two charities have warned (Jonathan Brady/PA) (PA Archive)
Older people’s mental health could be deteriorating due to the pandemic, two charities have warned (Jonathan Brady/PA) (PA Archive)

London hospitals are yet to see a large rise in very ill elderly Covid patients as in earlier waves but it is too early to say this will not happen, a health chief said.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said hospital chiefs in the capital were waiting until next week before growing more hopeful that vaccines are keeping a lid on a possible surge in elderly and vulnerable people with severe Covid.

“We are not seeing large numbers of very ill elderly people coming into hospital at this point,” he told the Standard.

He added it was “too early to be conclusive” whether this is due to vaccine protection or because the virus has so far largely been circulating in younger adults and children.

He said: “The general view is if it’s the case in a week’s time, I think there will be a larger sigh of relief.”

Hospitalisations tend to follow trends in Covid cases by a week or two and the number of admissions is expected to rise, with elderly people more vulnerable to severe Covid.

Hospital admissions of patients with coronavirus in London jumped to 301 on December 20, compared to 114 on December 1.

However, given the surge of Omicron in the community in the capital, now estimated to account for more than 90 per cent of Covid cases, a significant number of the admissions are people whose primary cause for going to hospital is not the virus.

The number of Covid patients in the city’s hospitals was 2,036 on December 22, up from 1,074 on December 1, and compared to about 8,000 at the peak of the second wave in January.

About 200 are so ill that they are on ventilators, a figure which has remained at this level since December 11.

The vast majority of patients in intensive care are not fully vaccinated.

Mr Hopson stressed that while the number of Covid patients had not spiralled, the NHS in London is already under huge strain due to winter pressures and dealing with the treatment backlog.

However, possibly the biggest challenge now is the number of doctors, nurses and other health professionals who are off work, having contracted Covid or come into contact with someone who had, he added.

“If you look at the broader picture, we are busier at this time of year than we’ve ever been before,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, speaking about the national situation.

“Our bed occupancy rate is 94.5 per cent compared to last year’s 89 per cent. That’s a huge difference in terms of much more busy.”

About 2,800 people every day are having to wait more than half an hour in the back of ambulances before being admitted to hospital, with staff shortages worsening the strain.

“I was talking to the chief executive of London Ambulance Service yesterday who was telling me 12 per cent of his staff are currently on sick leave,” he added.

“What you can see is in places where Omicron in particular is spreading through the community you’re finding significant numbers of staff are off.”

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