Hospitals and the ambulance service in London are ‘likely to become overwhelmed due to rising Covid demand in the next two-three weeks’, a leaked document reveals.
An NHS England document, leaked to the Health Service Journal, says the London Ambulance Service (LAS) and Emergency departments will struggle to meet demand by early January due to the surge in Omicron Covid cases.
It comes as yesterday (Monday, December 20) the daily number of people tested positive for COVID-19 in London was reported as 22,750 – with 87 per cent of them estimated to be the more infectious Omicron variant.
Read more:Number of London hospital patients skyrockets by 30% in just 7 days due to Omicron surge
The NHS England document says: “NHS services in London are again facing significant operational pressure as a result of the current surge in Covid-19 cases from the new variant of concern, Omicron.
“Through recent modelling, it is predicted that the London Ambulance Service (LAS), Emergency Departments (EDs) and the General and Acute (G&A) bed base are likely to become overwhelmed due to rising covid demand in the next two-three weeks.”
It continued: “These services, along with Primary and Community care, are under exceptional pressure given the increased ask being placed on Covid vaccination capacity, and all being compounded by the impact of infection control social distancing measures and increasing winter demand from other Long Term Conditions (LTC) such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).”
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Adding to the pressure, Dr Lee, a consultant at a West London hospital, told MyLondon that the staff shortages are compounded by the fact that ICU is more often taken up by patients who are not vaccinated, meaning they often require more support and spend longer in hospital.
But even those who are not severely ill, still has a knock-on effect in terms of staff and resources.
He told MyLondon: “Even if infected people are admitted for other reasons, like you break your leg, for example. The very fact that they have Covid means it takes up more resources as you have to isolate them, monitor them more closely.
“These are all resources that could go on something else. Vaccination doesn’t just protect you but frees up capacity for everybody else.”
University of Cambridge professor Sir David Spiegelhalter said the latest findings suggest Covid is rife in London and many people have it without knowing.
Speaking on Channel 4 News on Monday evening he said a significant proportion of new Covid admissions to London hospitals in the past week only tested positive after arriving at hospital, possibly for a different illness or ailment.
This causes additional problems because when a patient tests positive in hospital they need to be isolated from others – consuming extra resources and putting additional strain on the health service.
Sir David told Channel 4 News : “People are going to be watching London very carefully over the next few days, which has had a huge surge in Omicron, doubling every couple of days.”
He added: “Around half the extra admissions in London with Covid were in fact diagnosed with Covid after they had been in hospital, in other words they had Covid anyway, which vast numbers of people in London now do, and then they found out they had Covid once they’d gone to hospital.”
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London hospitals are currently facing significant staffing shortages due to Covid-19 isolation mandates.
To ease pressure, the requirement for self isolation for NHS staff if they are a contact of a positive Covid case at work is removed and now only a confirmatory PCR test is required.
One in three of the workforce would be absent by New Year’s Eve if the growth rate continued, the HSJ reported.
The NHS England document noted that staff parts of the NHS in the capital would struggle to deliver “virtual wards”.
These are measures already in place but undergoing an expansion, whereby a patient is treated at home, with their oxygen levels monitored remotely.
They will be used for people who are found to need care but not hospital treatment.
The plan aims to free up hospital beds available so that there is more beds available for patients requiring emergency care.
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