London hospitals ‘less than two weeks away’ from being overwhelmed by Covid

London's hospitals are less than two weeks from being overwhelmed by coronavirus – even under the 'best case' scenario, according to a leaked NHS briefing.

NHS England London medical director, Vin Diwakar, gave a bleak analysis to the medical directors of hospital trusts on a Zoom call.

The update showed even if the number of Covid patients grew at the lowest rate, and measures to manage demand and increase capacity were successful, the NHS in London would be short of 2,000 general and acute and intensive care beds by January 19.

Under the 'best' case scenario, the number of patients in general and acute beds is projected to rise to 9,500 by that date, according to HSJ.

Total demand is projected as 17,000 after small demand control measures. Increasing capacity may be completed through the NHS finding another 400 beds, and the independent sector 50, while being complemented by 1,000 'step down beds', some supplied by opening the capital's Nightingale Hospital, as well as 150 freed up by specialist trusts.

These measures would give total capacity of 15,600, which is 1,400 short of forecast demand.

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In the 'average' scenario, the shortfall of beds is given as 2,900 and 4,400 in the 'worst' one.

For intensive care or 'adult critical care', the model follows the same pattern for general and acute.

Under the 'best' scenario, the number of Covid positive patients rises to 1,600 and "total unmitigated demand" to just over 2,000.

The briefing reports that as of January 5, over 70% of its ICU beds were occupied by Covid positive patients.

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In a statement given to HSJ, Dr Diwakar said: “Hospitals in London are coming under significant pressure from high covid-19 infection rates which is why they have opened hundreds of surge critical care beds and are planning to open more, including opening the London Nightingale.

“While staff are going the extra mile to care for patients it is crucial that people do everything they can to reduce transmission of the virus.”

The news comes as police have put emergency service teams – including officers, paramedics and fire crews – at the ready, to remove bodies of people who die of Covid at home as forecasters predict deaths could soon average 1,000 a day in the UK.

The Pandemic Multi-agency Response Teams will travel to houses, care homes and hospices where people are believed to have died from coronavirus.

The measures are designed to ease demand on ambulance services.

Covid deaths topped 1,000 for the first time since April yesterday, and cases rocketed by 62,322, the highest daily rise since the pandemic began.

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