Hospitals in England are increasingly feeling the pressure, with rising numbers of Covid patients and staff shortages.
Four out of five hospitals experienced potentially dangerously high bed occupancy rates in the week to 2 January, according to the fifth installment of NHS England’s weekly winter pressure reports for this year.
A&Es are also struggling under the pressure, with thousands of patients waiting over an hour in ambulances to be transferred to emergency departments.
NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said Omicron means “more patients to treat and fewer staff to treat them” as he urged the public to continue coming forward for vaccinations to help the health service.
From ambulance handover delays to critical bed occupancy, here’s how much pressure each NHS trust in the country is under.
How busy are hospitals?
Hospitals across England became increasingly busy in the week to 2 January, NHS England data shows.
On average, 89.7% of general and acute hospital beds for adults were occupied, up from 87.4% the week before.
Hospitals are considered to be too busy if more than 85% of beds are occupied by patients. After this, patient care is thought to be compromised.
General and acute beds are for people admitted from A&E, by their GP, or who are recovering post surgery. It excludes beds in intensive care, maternity, and mental health wards.
In the week to 2 January, four out of five NHS trusts (81%) had an average occupancy rate higher than the 85% threshold during the week. That was compared to 70% of trusts the week before.
Almost half of trusts reached 95% occupancy on at least one occasion.
You can find out how busy your local hospital was in the table below.
What about critical care?
According to the NHS data, an average of 3,037 adult critical care beds were occupied each day in the week to 2 January, giving an occupancy rate of 74.4%.
That was lower than the previous week, when it was 75%, and the lowest since the weekly winter pressure report began for this season.
Search for your hospital’s average critical care occupancy rate in the table below.
How long are the waits outside A&E?
NHS England also publishes data on delays between ambulance staff handing patients over to medics at A&E.
Patients are not supposed to wait longer than 15 minutes to be transferred to hospital staff once they arrive in an ambulance.
The data however only reveals when patients waited between 30 and 60 minutes, or over an hour.
In the week to 2 January, 83,643 patients arrived at hospitals by ambulance in England. Of these, 10,827 (12.9%) waited between 30 and 60 minutes, while 8,272 (9.9%) waited more than an hour.
This was a significant deterioration on the previous week, when 9.8% waited 30 - 60 minutes and 3.5% waited more than 60.
Search the table below to see what waits were like in your area.
How many staff are off?
Staff absences are an increasing concern with sky-high Covid infection rates across the country.
High absence levels means hospitals will struggle at lower occupancy levels than they may otherwise do.
A total of 80,295 staff were off from acute hospital trusts every day on average in the week to 2 January, according to the NHS England data.
That was a 13.5% leap on the previous week, when 70,762 were off. In the first winter pressure report at the start of December, there were an average of 58,571 absences.
Covid was entirely responsible for the increase in the latest week - absences due to sickness from Covid or self-isolation leaped by 40.8%, from 25,273 to 33,596. At the start of December there were 11,957 Covid-related absences on average.
You can find how many staff were off at your local NHS trust in the table below.
How many people are in hospital with Covid?
The most recent NHS England data – published separately to the winter pressure data – shows there were 15,044 patients in hospital with Covid on 4 January.
That was up by 43.8% week-on-week, with 9,546 patients recorded on 28 December.
Not all Covid patients will be in hospital primarily because of Covid.
The data includes patients who tested positive within the 14 days prior to their admission, or people who tested positive after being admitted.
The latest figures show 37% of Covid patients as of 3 January had a primary diagnosis of Covid.
But Covid-positive patients in hospital for other reasons still cause extra pressure, due to the need to treat them separately to prevent infection.
NHS England also points out that “in many instances” when a patient is admitted ‘with’ Covid rather than ‘for’ Covid, the admission could still be the result of them contracting the virus as it can lead to other conditions.
If a person suffers a stroke as a result of contracting Covid they will be admitted with a primary diagnosis of stroke rather than coronavirus – even though the virus is behind it.
The data covers patients of all ages.
However, analysis of government Covid dashboard figures by NationalWorld earlier this week revealed hospitals in England have seen particularly big increases in children aged under six being admitted.
Age breakdowns are not available by hospital.
Search the table below to find out how many Covid patients are in your local hospital.
What does NHS England say?
NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: “Omicron means more patients to treat and fewer staff to treat them. In fact, around 10,000 more colleagues across the NHS were absent each day last week compared with the previous seven days and almost half of all absences are now down to Covid.
“While we don’t know the full scale of the potential impact this new strain will have, it’s clear it spreads more easily and, as a result, Covid cases in hospitals are the highest they’ve been since February last year – piling even more pressure on hard working staff.
“Those staff are stepping up as they always do; answering a quarter more 111 calls last week than the week before, dealing with an increasing number of ambulance call outs, and working closely with colleagues in social care to get people out of hospital safely.
“You can help us to help you by ensuring you are vaccinated against covid.
“And as has been the case throughout the pandemic, if you have a health problem, please go to 111 online and call 999 when it is a life threatening condition – the NHS is here for you.”
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