How a QUARTER of hospitals are operating at Covid 'danger zone'

How a QUARTER of hospitals are operating at Covid ‘danger zone’ with fifth of beds taken up by infected patients with figure as high as 45% in one Kent NHS site – so use our tool to find out how busy YOUR local trust is

  • At least a fifth of general and acute beds at 37 trusts filled by Covid patients in the week ending December 22 
  • Top experts have warned of a ‘danger zone’ when coronavirus breaches 20 per cent of hospital capacity
  • Yet two trusts in Kent and County Durham were operating at double that threshold in the most recent week

A quarter of England’s hospitals were treating a ‘dangerous’ number of Covid patients in the run up to Christmas, official figures show amid the looming threat of a third national lockdown. 

MailOnline’s analysis of NHS England data reveals at least a fifth of general beds at 37 trusts were filled by Covid patients in the week ending December 22. Top experts have warned of a ‘danger zone’ when Covid patients breach 20 per cent of hospital occupancy and the disease starts to impact non-Covid services and drive up the risk of outbreaks on wards.  

Two trusts were even operating at double that threshold during the most recent week, with coronavirus taking up 45 per cent of beds at the Medway NHS Foundation Trust in Kent and four in 10 beds at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust. 

A third of beds at four other trusts across Kent and London — East Kent Hospitals University Trust (37 per cent), Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust (35 per cent), Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust (34 per cent) and Dartford and Gravesham Trust (33 per cent) — were being used for patients with the disease.

Coronavirus patients need to be kept in isolation and treated with stringent infection control measures, which requires more staff and man hours and can put additional strain on hospitals. It makes keeping Covid occupancy below 20 per cent essential to avoid disrupting other parts of the NHS.

NHS bosses are under huge pressure to keep non-Covid services open this winter after coming under fire for shutting them down in spring to deal with Covid, in a move which led to millions of vital tests, appointments and operations being missed. 

Meanwhile, analysis of NHS figures reveals every region of England recorded a rise in Covid hospital patients in the most recent week amid calls from SAGE for a third national lockdown. The biggest surge was in London, where the number of beds occupied by Covid patients each day jumped 44 per cent from 1,551.6 to 2,236.7.

NHS England boss Sir Simon Stevens has warned the health service is ‘in the eye of the storm’ as the country moves into the harsh winter months, when admissions for other conditions normally spike, because there are already more Covid patients in English hospitals than there were during the darkest days in April 

A total of 20,426 beds were occupied by patients who had tested positive for coronavirus as of 8am on Monday, up from 18,974 on April 12. More than half of England’s 130 major trusts are already more than 90 per cent full and some are seeing Covid admissions double every week, which leaves hospitals little breathing room with the worst of winter ahead of them.

And yet it emerged today the Nightingale hospitals — which were supposed to be the health service’s saving grace if wards were overwhelmed by Covid — are being quietly dismantled amid reports there are not enough doctors and nurses to man them.   

It comes ahead of tomorrow’s shake-up of Downing Street’s four-tier lockdown system, with millions more set to join London, the South East and the East and be plunged into the toughest bracket. 

SCROLL DOWN TO FIND OUT HOW BUSY YOUR TRUST IS   

 

Whitehall sources have suggested up to two thirds of England could be under draconian stay-at-home orders following the review. Around 24million people are currently living with the measures, representing 43 per cent of the population.

Nightingale hospitals are being quietly taken apart as medics warn there are too few doctors and nurses to keep the make-shift facilities open.

Health bosses have already started stripping London’s of its 4,000 beds, ventilators and even signs directing patients to wards, while those in Birmingham and Sunderland are yet to re-open.

An eye-watering £220million of taxpayers’ money was splashed on seven Nightingales amid panic hospitals could be overwhelmed by an influx of Covid-19 patients during the first wave.

But many stood empty for months after ministers hailed them as a ‘solution’ to the Covid-19 crisis when they were opened to much fan-fare during the first months of the pandemic to buffer overwhelmed hospitals.

Intensive care doctors today accused ministers of ignoring warnings staffing was already ‘wafer thin’ in intensive care before splurging on the extra capacity, with little regard as to how they would be run.

And as beds were wheeled away from the flagship Nightingale in London – opened by Prince Charles – figures revealed that Covid-19 hospitalisations in England have surged past the peak of the first wave amid warnings from health chiefs they are back in the ‘eye’ of the Covid storm.  

Boris Johnson will decide new tiers TONIGHT amid fears he will plunge two-thirds of England into toughest level four tomorrow

Boris Johnson will meet with senior ministers this evening to decide on the Government’s latest coronavirus tiers shake-up.

The Prime Minister will chair a meeting of the so-called Covid-O committee, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock then due to announce the decisions to the House of Commons tomorrow afternoon.

The meeting comes amid claims that two-thirds of England, including parts of the Midlands and the North, could be forced to live under the toughest Tier 4 restrictions following the review.

Millions more people are expected to face the harshest stay-at-home orders as the Government responds to the spread of a mutant coronavirus strain thought to be at least 50 per cent more infectious than the original.

Covid hospital admissions are rising in every region, with NHS units in England now treating more patients than they were in the first wave. And Covid infections are continuing to soar, with a record-high of 41,385 announced yesterday.

There are growing fears England could be plunged into ‘Tier Five’ restrictions within days in a desperate attempt to stop the spread of the new variant of the virus.

Scientists guiding the Government through the pandemic are understood to have advised Mr Johnson to impose tougher measures than those rolled out in November’s lockdown.

One of Number 10’s scientific advisers today warned England must be plunged into a third national shutdown to prevent a ‘catastrophe’ in the New Year.

Professor Andrew Hayward, an epidemiologist at University College London and member of SAGE, warned the country is entering a ‘very dangerous new phase of the pandemic’.

He called for ministers to ‘learn the lessons’ of earlier waves, when the Government was criticised for being too slow to lockdown, and to act early this time.

Around 24million people living in London, the South East and the East of England are already under the harshest Tier 4 curbs.

But more regions and local authorities are feared to be set to join them after Number 10’s leading scientists admitted they cannot stop the spread of the highly-contagious mutation that officials believe is to blame for rapidly spiralling cases.

One source told The Telegraph: ‘I would expect more than half of England to move into Tier 4, but it wouldn’t surprise me if two thirds end up in the top tier,’ a health official told the publication. 

‘There is also real concern about the South African variant which seems to be spreading fast. Unfortunately, more action is needed to combat rising cases across the board.’  

MailOnline’s analysis of the NHS England figures shows the biggest surge in Covid hospital patients in the week up to December 22 was in London, where the mutant strain of the virus is already thought to have taken hold.

The number of beds occupied by Covid-19 patients jumped 44 per cent from 1,551.6 to 2,236.7 over the past seven days.

The second highest spike was in the East of England, where they rose 43.9 per cent from 1,118.6 to 1,610.4.

In the South East the figure rose by 27.8 per cent from 1,579.1 to 2,018. 

Overall the number of Covid-19 patients in hospital across England rose by 16.6 per cent, from 11,685.3 to 13,623.9. 

But the numbers only look at general and acute beds and do not take into account Covid patients in intensive care. For our analysis, we only included hospitals that had more than 100 bed capacity.

In the South West, the number of Covid hospital patients rose by 11.4 per cent, from 803.3 to 894.9 and in the Midlands by 5.6 per cent, from 2,489.6 to 2,630.6.

The figure in the North East and Yorkshire increased by 2.7 per cent, from 2,131.3 to 2,188.1, and in the North West it went up 1.6 per cent, from 2,011.9 to 2,044.9. 

Meanwhile, one of No10’s scientific advisers today warned England must be plunged into a third national lockdown to prevent a ‘catastrophe’ between now and February. 

Professor Andrew Hayward, an epidemiologist at University College London and member of SAGE, warned the country was entering a ‘very dangerous new phase of the pandemic’.

He called for ministers to ‘learn the lessons’ of earlier waves, when the Government was criticised for being too slow to lock down, and act early this time. 

Calling on the Government to take swift action to curb the spread of the virus, Professor Hayward added: ‘I think we are entering a very dangerous new phase of the pandemic and we’re going to need decisive, early, national action to prevent a catastrophe in January and February.

‘A 50 per cent increase in transmissibility means that the previous levels of restrictions that worked before won’t work now, and so Tier 4 restrictions are likely to be necessary or even higher than that.

‘I think we’re really looking at a situation where we’re moving into near lockdown, but we’ve got to learn the lessons from the first lockdown.’ 

Professor Hayward said the rise in cases was ‘very largely driven’ by the new, more infectious variant of coronavirus, and suggested that allowing pupils to return to schools would mean stricter restrictions in other areas of society.

He said: ‘We’ve had control measures that were previously controlling the old variant are not enough for this variant. And so if we want to control the new variant we are going to need much tighter restrictions.’

Professor Hayward said he thought schools would have to return ‘maybe a little bit later’ but that it would mean ‘we’re going to have to have increased, strict restrictions in other areas of society to pay for that’.

‘We need to be more or less in a similar sort of messages of stay at home unless you really, really have to, so there’s that combined with incentivisation of testing, incentivisation of isolation – those sorts of things that will carry us through the next few months while we get as many people as possible vaccinated.’

The Government has not ruled out tougher new ‘Tier 5’ restrictions, which could see schools and universities close, or the prospect of a new national lockdown in January. 

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove yesterday failed to dismiss the idea of putting the entire country in Tier 4. He said: ‘We review which tiers parts of the country should be in on the basis of scientific evidence.

‘The Joint Biosecurity Centre will be making a recommendation to ministers, but I can’t pre-empt that because it obviously has to be a judgment based on the medical situation. The NHS is under pressure and these are difficult months ahead.

Despite hospitals filling up rapidly, it emerged today that the Nightingale hospitals are being quietly taken apart as medics warn there are too few doctors and nurses to keep the make-shift facilities open.

Health bosses have already started stripping London’s site of its 4,000 beds, ventilators and even signs directing ambulances to wards. Stunning photos from inside the emergency hospital today reveal it is virtually deserted, with wards emptied of beds, chairs stacked on top of each other in storage and no ambulances outside.

An eye-watering £220million was splashed on seven Nightingales across England amid fears that hospitals would be overwhelmed by Covid patients during the darkest days of the spring. Officials also constructed 19 temporary field hospitals in Wales, while Scotland and Northern Ireland opened one each.

But many of the mothballed sites have stood empty for months, despite ministers hailing them as a ‘solution’ to the Covid crisis when they were first opened to huge fan-fare. Sunderland’s make-shift facility, which hasn’t been used at all during the pandemic, remains closed.

Exeter’s hospital is the only one treating Covid patients. Manchester’s is open for ‘non-Covid care’, while locations in Bristol and Harrogate are operated as ‘specialist diagnostics centres’ or for ‘local services’. Health chiefs have already revealed that some will eventually be turned into vaccination centres. 

LONDON: The 4,000-bed Nightingale hospital stands empty, amid surging coronavirus cases and hospital admissions across the country. NHS England figures reveal England has more Covid-19 patients in hospital now than during the first wave of the pandemic in March and April. The hospital is pictured on December 22

HARROGATE: Of all the Nightingales in England, only Exeter’s is being used to treat Covid-19 patients after the area’s NHS said it was being overwhelmed. Harrogate’s is being used as ‘specialist diagnostics centres’. It is pictured today

SUNDERLAND: A general view of the Nightingale hospital in Sunderland today, with just a handful of cars parked outside. It has never been used and remains on standby

GLASGOW: The NHS Louisa Jordan is a temporary emergency critical care hospital created to deal with the extra pressure of Covid in Scotland. The site, located within the SEC Centre in Glasgow, has been used to treat patients without the virus since July. There were no ambulances to be seen outside it this morning

CARDIFF: Builders construct the new 400-bed surge facility at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff. Above is a general view of the facility pictured today

And some of the Nightingales – including the flagship unit at London’s ExCeL centre which was opened by Prince Charles – are being dismantled, with unused beds being sent to other struggling hospitals across the capital. Nine temporary sites created in Wales have already closed, including the 2,000-bed facility inside Cardiff’s Principality Stadium.

Secondary school re-opening ‘WILL be delayed by at least an extra week but primaries will open on schedule’

Boris Johnson will delay the opening of all England’s secondary schools for at least another week after pressure from SAGE scientists, ministers, teachers and unions to keep all students at home throughout January, it emerged today.

The Prime Minister is expected to announce the new extended schools lockdown after being accused of ‘dithering’ on the eve of the new term – but primary schools will be told to open as usual on Monday.

Pupils studying for GCSEs and A-levels in Years 11 and 13 will now not go back to school on January 4 as agreed, and will have to wait until at least January 11 – and can only return after receiving a negative Covid test, according to the TES.

The remaining students would then be due back from January 18 at the earliest – but with no mass testing in schools yet and plans to use 1,500 Army personnel to support up to 32,000 UK schools branded ‘ludicrous’ by headteachers there are growing concerns that millions of children will be condemned to ‘sub-standard’ online classes until well into February.

Union chief Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), has praised the decision and said: ‘This would seem a pretty sensible and prudent approach given the rising incidence of Covid rates and the new strain of the virus’.

It came as a senior Tory today demanded Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance publish the data being used to pressure Boris Johnson into shutting schools until February amid warnings a third national lockdown would spark an ‘epidemic of educational poverty’ in Britain.

Robert Halfon, chair of the Education Select Committee, has questioned whether the new strain of Covid-19 has as much of an impact as has been reported and said: ‘We haven’t had the advice from the chief medical officer and the chief science officer, previously they were saying time and time again that the risks to Covid for children were low and that there were marginal transmission rates.’

He added: ‘I asked a very senior public health England official only just before Christmas whether or not this new variant made a difference and he said there was no evidence for that. So what we need to do is hear from the chief medical officer and chief science officer what exactly is the scientific evidence, because at the moment we don’t know for sure.’

Infectious Disease Modeller and SAGE member Dr Mike Tildsley told Times Radio Breakfast: ‘We must avoid falling into the situation where schools are closed for next term. Just because there is a rise in cases in that age group doesn’t mean they’re being infected in schools’.

NHS England chiefs today insisted, however, the London Nightingale is on ‘standby’ and ‘will be available to support the capital’s hospitals if needed’.

Intensive care doctors today accused ministers of ignoring warnings staffing was already ‘wafer thin’ in intensive care before splurging on the extra capacity, with little regard as to how they would be run. Labour MPs have called the Nightingales a ‘total waste of resources and money’.

Doctors have warned there is ‘no staff for them to run as they were originally intended’, with Downing St originally hoping that they would be used as mini intensive care units. Dr Nick Scriven, ex-president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: ‘They could play a role if used as rehabilitation units for those recovering but, again, where do we find the specialist staff? The NHS simply does not have the capacity to spare anyone.’

Nurses and doctors set alarm bells ringing today with warnings wards are filling up with Covid-19 patients, as they called on Britons to avoid celebrating the New Year outside their household to curb the spread of the virus.

It comes after it emerged that Boris Johnson will delay the opening of all England’s secondary schools for at least another week after pressure from SAGE scientists, ministers, teachers and unions to keep all students at home throughout January.

The Prime Minister is expected to announce the new extended schools lockdown after being accused of ‘dithering’ on the eve of the new term – but primary schools will be told to open as usual on Monday.

Pupils studying for GCSEs and A-levels in Years 11 and 13 will now not go back to school on January 4 as agreed, and will have to wait until at least January 11 – and can only return after receiving a negative Covid test, according to the TES.

The remaining students would then be due back from January 18 at the earliest – but with no mass testing in schools yet and plans to use 1,500 Army personnel to support up to 32,000 UK schools branded ‘ludicrous’ by headteachers there are growing concerns that millions of children will be condemned to ‘sub-standard’ online classes until well into February.

Union chief Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), has praised the decision and said: ‘This would seem a pretty sensible and prudent approach given the rising incidence of Covid rates and the new strain of the virus’.

It came as a senior Tory today demanded Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance publish the data being used to pressure Boris Johnson into shutting schools until February amid warnings a third national lockdown would spark an ‘epidemic of educational poverty’ in Britain.

Robert Halfon, chair of the Education Select Committee, has questioned whether the new strain of Covid-19 has as much of an impact as has been reported and said: ‘We haven’t had the advice from the chief medical officer and the chief science officer, previously they were saying time and time again that the risks to Covid for children were low and that there were marginal transmission rates.’

He added: ‘I asked a very senior public health England official only just before Christmas whether or not this new variant made a difference and he said there was no evidence for that. So what we need to do is hear from the chief medical officer and chief science officer what exactly is the scientific evidence, because at the moment we don’t know for sure.’

Infectious Disease Modeller and SAGE member Dr Mike Tildsley told Times Radio Breakfast: ‘We must avoid falling into the situation where schools are closed for next term. Just because there is a rise in cases in that age group doesn’t mean they’re being infected in schools’.

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