There are more coronavirus patients in hospitals now than when the UK went into lockdown in March.
Hospital admissions are rising rapidly in northern England, particularly in the north west, where the rate could outstrip the first wave, a senior NHS official said today.
NHS England national medical director Stephen Powis made the startling announcement during a Downing Street briefing on the second wave currently sweeping across the UK.
He said: ‘As the infection rate has begun to grow across the country, hospital infections have started to rise.
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‘It is clear that hospital admissions are rising fastest in those areas of the country where infection rates are highest, particularly the north west.
‘In the over-65s – particularly the over-85s – we are seeing steep rises in the numbers of people being admitted to hospital so the claim that the elderly can somehow be fenced off from risk is wishful thinking.’
Professor Powis said personal measures like washing your hands, wearing masks and keeping an appropriate distance has helped as the first line of defence, as well as measures like the rule of six.
Test and trace have helped as a second line of defence, he said, but we are now having to rely on hospital care.
Prof Powis said all NHS hospital staff will now be tested regularly regardless of whether they have symptoms or not.
He said: ‘This will help us keep staff and patients in those hospitals as safe as possible.’
Nightingale Hospitals in Manchester, Sunderland and Harrogate have also been told to prepare for more patients.
Prof Powis added: ‘They are being asked to mobilise over the next few weeks to be ready to accept patients if necessary.’
It will be for local clinicians to decide whether they are used for Covid patients or to provide extra capacity to maintain services for people without coronavirus.
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