Hospitals in south-east cancel treatments as Covid cases surge

Hospitals in south-east England have postponed non-urgent procedures as some face double the number of coronavirus patients they treated in spring. 

The NHS in Kent announced some planned operations would be cancelled due to the ‘increase in Covid patients being treated’ last night.

It comes after the Barts Health NHS Trust – which serves around 2.5 million people in east London – said it had moved to the ‘high pressure’ phase of its winter escalation plan.

Both trusts have promised cancer operations and other urgent treatments ‘will go ahead as normal’.

New figures show there were 15,465 coronavirus patients in hospital across England on December 16 – up from 13,467 a week earlier.

During the first wave of the pandemic, this number peaked at 18,974 on April 12.

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS trust had 221 Covid-19 patients on December 16 – around 120 more than the 98 they admitted during the first peak on April 8.

On Wednesday, the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust treated 357 people with coronavirus – almost twice the maximum number they had at any point in spring. Figures reached 187 on April 20.

The NHS in Kent said: ‘We are working hard to ensure we treat as many patients as possible, while ensuring we provide a safe hospital environment.

‘However, the increase in numbers has meant difficult decisions to prioritise cases of higher urgency.’

‘Cases of higher urgency’ include cancer operations which they promised would ‘go ahead as normal’. 

The Barts Health NHS Trust said: ‘We are treating high numbers of patients with Covid-19, and in line with our winter escalation plan we have moved into a ‘high pressure’ phase and are taking steps to keep our patients safe.

‘These include deferring some routine procedures over the coming days so we can redeploy staff and increase the number of critical care and general beds available.’ 

The trust – which operates across four major hospital sites – said patients will be contacted directly if their elective procedures need to be postponed.

London is still well below its first wave peak of coronavirus hospital patients, but NHS trusts are facing pressure as cases increase across the city.

Some 2,543 patients were recorded in the capital on December 16 – up from 1,787 a week ago. London saw 5,201 patients in hospital during the first wave peak on April 9.

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