Number of Covid positive patients in NHS beds in England could DOUBLE to 8,000, warns health expert

Health Service Journal Editor Alastair McLellan warned the number of patients in hospital with Covid-19 could double by mid-August

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Health Service Journal Editor Alastair McLellan warned the number of patients in hospital with Covid-19 could double by mid-August

A health expert has warned the number of patients in hospital with Covid-19 could double in just three weeks. 

Health Service Journal Editor Alastair McLellan said hospitalisations could top 8,000 by mid-August, roughly equivalent to 10 per cent of non-intensive care beds in England. 

It came as he scaled down his projection for the number of Covid-19 hospitalisations from 6,000 to 5,500 by the end of July, after the rise plateaued.    

But he warned the projected surge would still cause severe delays to routine services. 

‘There just over 4,000 covid-positive patients in NHS England beds at the moment’, he told BBC Radio 4. 

‘It looks like we are on course for around 5,500 by the end of the month and perhaps 8,000 in the middle of August.’

He added: ‘That 8,000 number is important because it is roughly equivalent of 10 per cent of non-intensive care hospital beds that are available in England.

‘Very generally, if you get to that 10 per cent number, that is the number where you start to get severe disruption to routine services – hip replacements, that kind of thing.’   

Asked whether people are remaining in hospital for as long, he said: ‘The data is still building, but the anecdotal evidence from senior healthcare leaders is that lengths of stay is shorter.

‘But it’s not short enough to stop the number of people in beds rising very steeply.

McLellan added: ‘Although it has gone down in recent days, it is still rising at 30 per cent a week which is higher than the rises we got in the winter wave, but it is on much smaller numbers.’ 

Questioned on whether the surge in hospitalisations would peak in August, McLellan said: ‘The falling rate of infection is clearly good news but it is way too early to say that we have peaked yet.

‘The various rates of infections have gone up and down over the past few weeks so we will have to wait a little longer to call this the peak, if that is indeed what it is.’

It comes after NHS England warned this week that hospitals might still face the ‘most difficult period’ of the pandemic, despite the end of lockdown on Monday.  

‘The big unknown is what happens after the peak,’ he wrote on Twitter. 

‘The NHS can cope circa 8-10K covid patients 4 a few weeks. But if (after kids go back to school) it continues into late Sep/Oct, the build-up of pressure will feel as intense as the (much higher, but shorter) April & Jan peaks.’   

‘With past waves we knew that (or found out) that the imposition of restrictions can bring them under control. 

‘This time the exit strategy is vaccines and the evidence from around the world that they can bring infections down as fast and as a low is much more mixed.’

It comes as Britain’s daily coronavirus cases fell for a fourth day in a row with a 41 per cent drop on last week.

A total of 31,795 new cases were reported across the UK today, with 46,519,998 people now receiving the first dose of a vaccine and 36,953,691 receiving a second dose, according to Public Health England (PHE) data.

The deaths data for today not yet available, with PHE saying it is experiencing delays to its Covid dashboard.

In Northern Ireland, a further 1,520 cases and one death were reported. There were 163 Covid-positive patients in hospital on Saturday morning, with 16 in intensive care. In total, 2,200,125 vaccines have been administered.

It follows experts warning last week that cases would continue to spiral across the country until autumn, passing the 100,000 mark in one weeks’ time.