A majority of major hospital trusts in England are continuing to average no Covid-19 admissions, though a handful of trusts in virus hotspots are showing a small rise in numbers, new analysis shows.
It comes as health experts warn that the Covid-19 variant that originated in India, also known as the Delta variant, may lead to an increased risk of hospital admission.
Some 278 people with the Indian variant attended A&Es in England in the past week, resulting in 94 people being admitted to hospital overnight, according to Public Health England (PHE).
This compares with 201 A&E attendances in the previous week, with 43 admissions.
However the majority of admissions continue to be people who have not been vaccinated, PHE said.
Analysis by the PA news agency shows that of the 132 acute trusts in England that reported data for Covid-19 admissions on May 30, and which handled coronavirus cases at any point during the second wave of the virus, nearly two-thirds (63%, or 85) were averaging no admissions.
This is down slightly from 65% of trusts one week earlier.
But it is higher than the seven-day average for admissions one month earlier on April 30 (59%), and well above the equivalent figure at the start of January, when just 5% of trusts were averaging zero Covid-19 admissions.
A quarter of trusts (33 out of 132, or 25%) had no admissions on any day during the most recent week – broadly unchanged on the previous week (34, or 26%).
Of those trusts that did report Covid-19 admissions on May 30, the highest number was eight for East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, up six on a week earlier.
This is also the biggest week-on-week jump for any trust.
East Lancashire covers some of the UK’s current Covid-19 hotspots, including Blackburn with Darwen, Ribble Valley and Burnley.
The average number of admissions a day for East Lancashire, based on a seven-day rolling average, currently stands at five: the highest since mid-March.
The analysis also shows that:
– The trusts with the next highest number of admissions on May 30 were Hillingdon in London and Manchester University (both four); and Great Western Hospital in Swindon, Croydon in south London and Bolton in Greater Manchester (all three).
– Some 31 of 132 trusts recorded a week-on-week rise in admissions, up slightly from 27 of 132 trusts in the previous seven days.
– Admissions in Bolton look to be decreasing, with the daily average now at six, down from a recent peak of eight. Bolton still has the highest number of Covid-19 patients of any hospital trust in England, however. The total stood at 42 as of June 1, up week-on-week from 41.
– Bolton is averaging 46 patients a day, up week-on-week from 34 and the highest since mid-March.
– King’s College Hospital Trust in south-east London is recording the next highest number of Covid-19 patients (30, up by two week-on-week), followed by Croydon Health Services Trust (29, up 11), Imperial College Healthcare Trust in north-west London (28, unchanged), and Manchester University Trust (28, down four).
Overall, 41 of the 137 acute trusts that reported data for Covid-19 patients on June 1 saw their numbers rise week-on-week.
This is slightly lower than the 44 trusts that saw a week-on-week rise over the previous seven days.
The average number of trusts reporting no Covid-19 patients stood at 32 on June 1, or 24% of the total.
This is broadly unchanged on the average one week earlier – 25% – but is up from 15% on May 1 and from just 2% on January 1.
Some 24 of the 137 trusts recorded no Covid-19 patients during the most recent week, broadly unchanged on 22 in the previous week.
Public Health England said there was “early evidence” of an increased risk of hospital admission for cases of the Indian (Delta) variant compared to the Kent (Alpha) variant, “although more data is needed for us to have more confidence in that finding”.
Dr Nick Scriven, immediate past president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said that hospitals across England are now very busy with non-Covid-related illnesses, meaning that even a small rise in Covid-19 numbers could jeopardise plans to tackle the backlog of routine surgery.
“Any slight rise in numbers will put the latter into jeopardy, as hospitals will again lose any flexibility in how they manage their bed bases around infection control policies,” Dr Scriven said.
“It is this lack of available beds that will bring the biggest struggles, rather than the absolute numbers of Covid patients in the system, which is far less than the grim days of winter and spring.
“There is also very significant concern in NHS trusts in or near areas of concern regarding the Delta variant, especially around the potential for vaccinated staff to be asymptomatic carriers.
“There is worry that there is a perception hospitals are now ‘open as usual’, especially for visitors, which is sadly not the case – and with infection rates rising the ‘rules’ regarding this will not change.”