Weeks until Covid vaccines lessen load on hospitals, says NHS chief

Ross Lydall
·3-min read
<p>There was another spike in the number of inpatients in the capital, rising by 136 to 7,707 patients yesterday</p> (REUTERS)

There was another spike in the number of inpatients in the capital, rising by 136 to 7,707 patients yesterday

(REUTERS)

The pressure on London hospitals re-intensified over the weekend as the NHS’s top doctor today warned that it could take a month before the vaccine roll-out would start to reduce admissions.

There was another spike in the number of inpatients in the capital, rising by 136 to 7,707 patients yesterday — of which more than 1,200 were on ventilators.

Professor Stephen Powis, medical director of NHS England, said: “I don’t think we will see the effects of the vaccine programme on deaths and hospital admissions until well into February.”

He urged people to stick to social distancing guidelines and told BBC Breakfast: “That is the way we will avoid deaths in the weeks to come and hopefully take that severe pressure off our hospitals.

“The NHS is undoubtedly in a precarious place at the moment. We have over 30,000 patients with Covid in our hospitals. We have seen 15,000 come in since Christmas Eve — that is the equivalent of more than 20 hospitals. I don’t think the NHS has ever been under such pressure in any winter.

“There are signs here in London that the growth in infection rates are slowing. But it will take several weeks before that starts to have an effect at reducing the number of people in hospital. It’s really going to be tough over the next couple of weeks.”

More Londoners have been admitted to intensive care since the start of the second wave than in the first.

A total of 3,305 have required critical care since the start of September, compared with 3,102 up until the end of August. In the last 14 days, there have been 1,115 ICU admissions in London — twice as many as the second worst-hit area, the South-East.

However, the number of patients surviving critical care appears to be improving. A total of 27.8 per cent of ICU patients have died across the UK since September, compared with 39.4 per cent in the first wave, though many patients remain in hospital.

The London Ambulance Service has been forced to deploy paramedic students on the front line to help cope with up to 8,500 calls a day — 3,000 more than on a “normal” busy day.

The pressure on hospitals is leading to crews having to spend thousands of hours a week stuck outside A&Es, unable to offload patients from ambulances.

In a letter to borough leaders that has been seen by the Standard, LAS chairwoman Heather Lawrence said ambulance services outside the capital and St John Ambulance were also being asked to help.

She said: “Clinicians in non-patient facing roles and paramedic students have been deployed to patient-facing roles, for instance on ambulances or in our 999 and 111 control rooms

“We have received mutual aid for other ambulance services to deliver face-to-face care and answer 999 calls.”

Latest NHS England figures for January 4 to 10 show that 1,565 patients waited up to an hour and a further 825 for more than an hour outside London A&Es to be taken into the emergency department. At times, almost a quarter of patients were facing such delays.

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