NHS under pressure: Hospitals already nearing capacity ahead of Omicron surge, new figures show

NHS hospitals are already creaking under the pressure ahead of the anticipated influx of Omicron patients, figures show. Find out how your local trust is faring.
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NHS hospitals in England are already showing signs of significant pressure, even before the expected surge in Omicron patients expected this Christmas.

Last week, more than a fifth of ambulances (23%) had to queue outside A&Es for half an hour or more before patients could be admitted, official figures show.

Ambulances were diverted away from full A&Es across England a total of 28 times.

On average, across England there were around 60,000 NHS hospital staff absent from work each day, a fifth of whom were off for a Covid-related reason.

And five hospital trusts had no available critical care beds on any day last week.

They were George Eliot Hospital Trust in Warwickshire, Sherwood Forest Hospitals Trust in Nottinghamshire, Portsmouth Hospitals University Trust, Dorset County Hospital Trust and Royal United Hospitals Bath Trust.

England’s chief medical officer has warned that hospitalisations from Covid could soon reach a record high.

Professor Chris Whitty told the Commons Health and Social Care Committee that even if Omicron is milder than previous strains, the “very concentrated” wave of infections could take hospital admissions to new levels.

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The existing record is currently 4,583 admissions in one day, he said.

He said: “You could end up with a higher number than that going into hospital on a single day.

“That is entirely possible. It may be less than that. But I’m just saying that is certainly possible.”

Hospitals are already nearing capacity, the NHS England data shows.

Some 94.3% of adult general and acute beds were occupied by patients last week, up from 93.8% the week before.

An occupancy rate of 85% is generally considered to be the safe limit.

More than 1,700 beds had to be closed each day due to outbreaks of norovirus or other diarrhoea and vomiting bugs.

And bed-blocking remains an issue. On average, each day last week, more than half of inpatients (54%) who were fit to be discharged did not leave hospital, the figures show.

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “Staff are continuing to go above and beyond looking after thousands of seriously ill Covid patients, delivering hundreds of thousands of jabs into arms every day while continuing to deal with higher levels of pressures for this time of the year.

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“No one wants to spend more time in hospital than needed, and local NHS services are continuing to work closely with social care providers so patients can be discharged when they’re fit to leave.

“So as the NHS once again ramps up to deal with what is going to be an incredibly challenging winter, the best thing you can do to help is to come forward and get your jab.”

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