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UK News

COVID admissions figures ‘look scary’ but NHS is ready to ‘absorb’ rise, hospital boss says

today15/09/2021

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COVID figures look “scary” according to Professor Andy Hardy, the chief executive of University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire Trust.

Professor Hardy was reacting to modelling by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

It comes after the panel of government scientists warned that given the current upward trend in infections, the country could see anywhere between 2,000 to 7,000 daily hospital admissions.

Coventry Hospital is seeing a rise in the number of COVID admissions.

“We have seen a steady rise over recent weeks. Today we have 67 patients with COVID and nine of those require intensive care therapy,” Professor Hardy said.

He also put the modelling figures into context.

More on Covid-19

“What I will say is that’s the worst case scenario discussed by our colleagues at SAGE – and it’s right they highlight that to us so we can start to plan what we need to do to deal with it,” he said.

“What we all do in the health service is plan and prepare for the worst and hope for the best. So we hope for that, but those figures are scary but as I say all hospitals in the NHS will have plans in place to absorb what comes our way.”

Right now the NHS is admitting around 1,000 new COVID patients every day. That is much higher than at this time last year. The highest daily admissions were during mid-January in 2021 when they peaked at around 4,500 daily COVID admissions.

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‘COVID here for foreseeable future’

The SAGE modelling says admissions could rise to somewhere between 2,000 and 7,000 this year. That means even the most optimistic predictions are twice as much as the current hospitals admission rate.

This winter is our first with the Delta variant. Flu and other respiratory diseases are expecting to come bounding back.

But, stresses Professor Hardy, there are factors in our favour. There is the vaccine for starters and he thinks the experience gained during the first two waves means the NHS could probably cope with more daily admissions than it did during the peak.

“We could probably cope with more now because our knowledge of this disease is so much greater than it was last winter or when the disease first hit these shores, so we have better knowledge of how to deal with the disease,” he said.

“Therapeutic regimes mean the length of stay of patients if they need critical care is actually shorter. So I would hope we could deal with more than that on a daily basis as the NHS, but there is no number. What we do is constantly monitor what is the demand on beds and critical care beds, that was one of the tipping points that we were worried about last year and whether we had enough oxygen but now we’re better prepared this winter than we were last winter.”

Parked Ambulances In South London, UK, Emergency Medical Response Vehicles. Pic. iStock
Image: Professor Andy Hardy says hospitals are ready to ‘absorb’ the pressure

The health secretary said yesterday that the modellers did not always get it right. They are the first to agree. It is not their job to forecast the future and as one member of SPI-mo told me, they do not have a “crystal ball”.

Professor Rowland Kao is a SPI-mo scientist. He told me: “Any kind of projection you have is never going to be an exact crystal ball, so we have to plan on the basis of what we think may happen, and what we think may happen can always be wrong and that is just the nature of any kind of prediction, whether it’s modelling or any other kind of prediction, that possibility is there.

“Modellers take the best data we have at the time and give you an idea of what those data will tell you in the future.

“The advantage of trying to use those projections or crystal balls is that a lot of the time it’s too late so you need to make decisions ahead of time, it’s up to the government to decide when those points are, all we can do is provide the information that helps them make those decisions.”

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I asked Professor Kao what he thought the tipping point for the NHS would be, the number of daily COVID admissions that would overwhelm the health service.

“That’s a really important question,” he replied. “But there’s no definitive answer, the thing we know for sure is that capacity is not 100% of beds, as you get to even close to that number you are going to run into all sorts of issues in terms of staff and organisation.

“And we know last winter hospital staff were feeling they weren’t able to cope, and you have other factors, we’ve gone through 18 months of this pandemic, that is staff working full out for a very long time and the effect of that staff fatigue is very hard to quantify.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stressed repeatedly that he does not want to reimpose lockdowns. But even he accepts that there may be a need to reintroduce some measures to mitigate the spread of the disease over winter. Professor Kao agrees.

“There are some measures we can put in place in order to help slow things down to prevent any severe restrictions,” he said. “So, mask wearing we know has an effect on transmission and doesn’t affect peoples’ activities.

“Those simple measures like physical distancing could go a long way without really affecting our lives that much.

“We cannot predict with 100% accuracy exactly what course the pandemic will take over the next few months. But there is one thing we can say with full confidence. This winter is going to be extremely tough.”

 Sky News

© Sky News 2021

Written by: Rother Radio News


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today15/09/2021