NHS chief insists hospitals in Covid hotspots can cope with demand
Hospitals in virus hotspots are ‘coping well’ with surging Covid cases because patients are younger and in less need of critical care, a senior NHS boss has said.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said hospital leaders are confident vaccinations have broken the link between coronavirus cases, hospital admissions and deaths.
The breakthrough means fewer patients need treatment and those who do are generally younger and less sick than during the second wave, he said.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said hospital leaders are confident vaccinations have broken the link between cases, hospital admissions and deaths
Even in badly affected towns such as Bolton, it was ‘striking’ that hospital admissions had not risen as they did before, Mr Hopson said, adding that deaths remain low nationwide.
After troops were deployed to Greater Manchester and Lancashire to help battle soaring cases of the Delta, or Indian variant, members of Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps opened a vaccine centre outside Bolton Town Hall.
Despite mounting concerns, Mr Hopson, who represents hospital bosses, told Times Radio it was vital to look at the bigger picture. ‘It’s important not to just focus on the raw numbers here … you also do need to look at who’s being admitted into hospital and how clinically vulnerable and what level of acuity they’ve got.
‘What chief executives are consistently telling us is that it is a much younger population that is coming in, they are less clinically vulnerable, they are less in need of critical care and therefore they’re seeing what they believe is a significantly lower mortality rate which is borne out by the figures.’
His reassurances came as the UK recorded a further 7,540 cases yesterday, with the seven-day average up 66 per cent in a week.
Mr Hopson said it was unclear if the country was at the beginning of an exponential rise.
After troops were deployed to Greater Manchester and Lancashire to help battle soaring cases of the Delta, or Indian variant, members of Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps opened a vaccine centre outside Bolton Town Hall
‘We’ve had less than 15 people a day dying from Covid for nearly about seven weeks now and that compares to well over 1,000 a day in the January peak and 800 a day in April last year,’ he said. In a blog for the British Medical Journal yesterday, he wrote that NHS trust leaders felt they are ‘coping well’, adding that they were not seeing the same pressures on intensive care this time.
‘There is a growing sense that thanks to the vaccine, the chain seen in previous waves between rising infections and high rates of hospital admissions and deaths has been broken. That feels very significant,’ he wrote.
But Mr Hopson warned any decision on easing remaining lockdown restrictions on June 21 was finely balanced, adding that even a small rise in Covid patients could see hospitals forced to ‘make some trade-offs between Covid and non-Covid care’.
Philip Thomas, professor of risk management at the University of Bristol, said we should ‘brace ourselves for a surge in infections’ which could be greater than that seen in January.
But he agreed that cases will mainly be among the young, adding: ‘Crucially, the NHS should not come close to being overwhelmed.’ Likening it to a flu season, he estimated the UK will face another 7,000 deaths, with daily deaths peaking at a quarter of previous waves, before subsiding.
Mr Hopson said it was unclear if the country was at the beginning of an exponential rise (pictured: Combat medics from Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps vaccinate members of the public at a rapid vaccination centre, set up outside Bolton Town Hall)
He wrote in The Spectator magazine: ‘There is no point delaying reopening, because a landmark has been reached: Covid-19 has been downgraded into a nasty bug which is now no more lethal than viruses such as influenza.
‘My model points to about 7,000 more deaths to come. A daunting figure, yes, but about a third less than in a typical flu season.’
Official estimates show four-fifths of UK adults had potentially life-saving Covid-19 antibodies by the middle of May – up ten per cent on the previous month.
And in another landmark achievement for the vaccination programme, a record one million people signed up for jabs on the NHS website on Tuesday, causing the site to temporarily crash.
A total of 1,082,596 first and second dose slots – about 750 a minute – were booked online and by phone over 24 hours, as 25 to 29-year-olds were invited for jabs.
Sir Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England, said the figures have ‘blown out of the water the suggestion that people in their 20s might not come forward’.
Philip Thomas, professor of risk management at the University of Bristol, said we should ‘brace ourselves for a surge in infections’ which could be greater than that seen in January (pictured: Combat medics vaccinate members of the public at a rapid vaccination centre in Bolton)