Covid surveys have already surpassed the peak of last winter’s wave in hospitals in Greater Manchester, North West England, with health chiefs warning that patient care is threatened because they are struggling to deal with ‘serious’ staff shortages.
There were 1,229 Covid-positive patients treated in 10 hospital trusts in the Manchester area on January 4, the highest figure since the pandemic began, according to an FT analysis of the weekly local NHS England data published on Friday . The figure exceeds the previous high of just over 1,000 set last January.
Meanwhile, separate data showed that one in seven staff members was absent from acute trusts in the area on January 2, with more than 3,000 staff members either sick or self-isolating due to Covid.
Two CEOs of NHS Hospital Trusts in the North West have told the FT that the region carries the heaviest of Omicron golf in England. One hospital boss described the pressure on the health system due to workforce shortages as “serious”, adding that staff were “as troublesome as last January” and warned that patient care would “suffer” as a result.
“We are currently the epicenter [and] there is no sense in easing the problems, ”said another CEO. “It’s hard to maintain morale, but we know it will pass.” They said that “every staff member may be redeployed at some point” to close holes due to absence.
They added that it was “possible” that the region’s hospitals might need military support in the coming weeks, following the London hospitals this week set up in 40 army medics and 160 other staff members to help alleviate staff shortages.
Across England, the latest data showed that from January 7, the number of Covid patients in hospital doubled over the past 11 days to 16,163, just under half of last winter’s peak.
The number of hospital staff in England who are off work due to Covid disease or self-isolation tripled within a month to 39,142 on 2 January, raising the overall absenteeism levels to one in every 12 employees in acute hospital trusts.
Data from the Office for National Statistics, published on Friday, estimated that 3.7 million people in the UK had Covid-19 in the week ending December 31, 64 per cent more than a week earlier. Infection rates were highest in England, with about one in every 15 people infected with the virus.
The growing infections have raised concerns that although the health service in London, which was hit by the new variant for the first time, has recovered, the crisis in the Manchester area could be repeated in other local NHS trusts across England.
Critical incidents have been declared in 24 of England’s 137 hospital trusts in the past week, with two-thirds still under emergency measures, suggesting staff shortages could threaten priority services. Earlier this week, 17 hospitals across Greater Manchester interrupted a non-urgent operation.
Meanwhile, Northamptonshire on Friday announced a system-wide major incident due to fears of staff shortages across the NHS, social care and emergency services.
In London, Covid admissions fell by 9 cents week-on-week in the seven days to January 5th. The equivalent figure a week earlier was a 50 percent increase.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents healthcare leaders, said some trusts outside London were already “under greater pressure” due to Covid admissions as the capital, despite the fact that they had not yet reached their peak. .
“If we reached something like the peak in London, it reached about 50 per cent of the previous load in January last year,” Hopson said. “But we now have places that are already starting their Omicron wave with a higher case load and two or three weeks of growth left. This can be a big problem. “
The latest statistics show that England’s hospitals are under greater overall pressure this winter than last year, as they try to address the dual challenges of Omicron and the backlog of non-Covid patients in need of treatment for other conditions that have built up due to widespread cancellations during previous coronavirus waves.
Over the two weeks to January 4, an average of 80,335 adult beds were occupied across England, 8 per cent a year earlier, while unoccupied beds had fallen by 15 per cent to 8 289.
Professor Joe Harrison, chief executive of Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Trust in Buckinghamshire, north London, said he was “desperate to keep [non-urgent care] go ”despite increasing pressure.
“It’s not about us being overwhelmed by the NHS because we have not yet canceled every single outpatient appointment like we did in the first wave,” he said.
“I do not think what anyone is doing is the ongoing damage [the Omicron wave] will affect the health of patients awaiting elective care, ”Harrison added.
A critical care consultant at London’s Barts Health NHS Trust, the country’s largest hospital trust, told the FT that ministers had taken a risk by not imposing more restrictions in England, but that in the capital “at least, the government’s gamble [had] worked.” He added: “I feel we are at the peak when it comes to hospital admissions.”
Sarah Crofts, head of analytical outputs for the ONS infection survey, said there were ‘early signs’ across the UK of plateau infection rates in some age groups, including secondary school children. London is the only part of the UK where infection levels have dropped over the past week.