But the head of the NHS in England said tomorrow’s month-long lockdown should avoid the need for a nationwide postponement of elective surgery, although “targeted” local restrictions are likely.
Last night there were 990 hospital patients with coronavirus in hospitals in the capital, meaning the number is almost certain to hit four digits today – a level last seen in May.
When the first lockdown was imposed on March 23, there were 1,515 hospital patients for Covid-19 in the capital.
The latest government figures show Barking, Havering and Redbridge NHS Trust (BHRUT) University Hospitals the most affected in London.
Last week, BHRUT, which runs Queen’s Hospital in Romford and King George in Ilford, was at 62% of the level of covid patients seen in the first peak, raising concerns about its ability to cope as the second wave progresses alongside the usual increase in winter admissions.
BHRUT, which attracts patients from east London and west Essex, said last night that covid patients occupied 19% of its beds.
Magda Smith, Chief Medical Officer, said: “With a higher prevalence of Covid-19 in our communities than in other parts of London, we are seeing an increase in admissions.
“Through our work to change the way our hospitals operate after the first peak, we are carefully managing any impact of Covid-19 on our services and appointments and procedures are continuing as planned.”
Nationally, health chiefs were to lay bare the extent of the growing pressure on the NHS as GPs were to prepare to start administering a vaccine from next month.
NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said following the second lockdown starting tomorrow the NHS ‘would not need to embark on a nationwide postponement of routine operations’ – as has happened produced in the first peak – across the country.
However, “targeted local decisions” would continue to be made regarding postponement of elective surgery and other procedures, which he said had already occurred with about a quarter of routine operations in the Northwest. .
Sir Simon told the Today program: ‘If you look, for example, at what happened in October in the southeast, where the impact of the coronavirus was limited, hospitals have been operating at over 9/10 of their usual level. capacity.
“While in the northwest, the coronavirus has had a displacement impact and about a quarter of the routine operations that hospitals in the northwest are said to do could not take place because of the coronavirus.
He said the NHS in England currently had just under 11,000 Covid-19 patients – “the equivalent of 22 hospitals of coronavirus patients across England”.
He said since the Prime Minister announced the nationwide lockdown on Saturday, “we have filled two more hospitals with severely coronavirus patients.”
“These are absolutely desperately sick patients in hospitals,” Sir Simon said. “In many parts of the country, we are now seeing more coronavirus patients in hospital than during the first peak in April.”
Last night, it emerged that GPs were to be invited to bid for additional work to administer the Covid-19 vaccine as soon as it is approved by regulators.
Pulse magazine said people over 85 and frontline health workers would be the first to receive the vaccine, which would be given in nursing homes and large “birthing centers.”
Sir Simon confirmed this today and said he was “preparing the NHS” to be able to start administering a vaccine “before Christmas”, should a vaccine become available.
He said systematic screening for covid among asymptomatic frontline NHS staff had started in high prevalence areas, with more than 70,000 employees tested.
This would be rolled out to all “patient contact staff” within the next six to eight weeks due to the availability of new saliva tests.