Hospital beds in a corridor

As MPs back national lockdown, where does the NHS currently stand?

A third national lockdown has received approval from MPs in Parliament, with the strict ‘stay at home’ messaging part of a plan of steps to help support and protect the NHS during a difficult period ahead. But just how serious is the situation?

It’s been the inescapable narrative around the UK Covid-19 response in recent days; the idea that the health service will soon be faced with more coronavirus patients than it can effectively manage with its current capacity.

And while there is cause to argue on either side of the divisive situation, there is one thing which rings true no matter a person’s viewpoint: the NHS is under severe pressure, at a time when it already annually faces significant challenges.

Just today, health services in Sussex and Surrey have rolled out their ‘major incident’ plans, while thousands of routine and elective surgeries have been cancelled or temporarily suspended around the country – particularly impacting NHS trusts in London, Essex and Kent.

At present, London and the South East of England are worst affected by Covid-19 infections.

Dr Vin Diwakar was quoted as saying in a briefing that the sheer numbers of people becoming seriously unwell with Covid could see the capital’s hospitals facing a shortfall of anything between 1,932 and 5,422 beds by January 19, 2021.

But the impacts are being felt by health services across the country, with the West Midlands Ambulance Service this week reporting a record number of calls being dealt with in a 24-hour period. Dealing with 5,383 calls, it led to ambulances force to queue and wait to hand over patients at the region’s hospitals, with a very small number of patients waiting more than four hours to be transferred into the care of hospital staff.

That situation, described as a “very challenging day” to the BBC, saw handovers accounting for 759 hours of crews’ time – or the equivalent of taking 63 ambulance off the road.

And the situation could yet get worse before it gets better.

According to the official UK Government figures for Covid-19 infections and deaths yesterday, there were 62,322 new infections and 1,041 deaths – the first time since April the daily deaths have exceeded the 1,000 totals.

It is theorised that this could represent the beginning of the effects of mixing during the shortened festive period, as there is usually a “lag” in infection rates and deaths. However, following strict measures having been put in place to restrict movement and mixing during this period, it is hoped it will not transpire to be as severe of a spike as first anticipated.

With the national vaccination programme continuing to build up speed – something Prime Minister Boris Johnson described in his address as a “clear route” through the crisis – the need for people to respect the restrictions and measures now committed to law and come together to minimise risks to oneself and others is essential.

The lockdown restrictions backed by MPs will be in place for at least the coming weeks, with regulations allowing the lockdown to be in place until the end of March.

Mr Johnson said if the vaccination programme could progress fast enough, it may allow restrictions to be eased “by the middle of February, if things go well and with a fair wind in our sails”, but was unwilling to commit to a specific date for the easing of restrictions.

NHE Sept/Oct 21

NHE Sept/Oct 21

Improving care for long-term conditions

Join us in our September/October edition of National Health Executive, as we explore a range of topics impacting and improving the care that we can deliver to patients, the facilities within which we deliver them, and the opportunities in the digital space to accent and evolve our care capabilities


View all videos
National Health Executive Presents

National Health Executive Presents

NHE365 Virtual Festival: Digital Healthcare

The integration of new technology, such as using virtual outpatient appointments instead of face-to-face reviews of patients in the hospital. Adapting the ways in which our NHS workers serve people has been critical in continuing to provide high-quality treatment, a positive patient experience and preventing Covid-19 transmission during the pandemic. Our healthcare sector has the potential to transform the way we continue to provide essential services while also improving patient care. But how easy is the integration of these innovations into routine NHS practice?

On the 28th of October, at the NHE365 Virtual Hospitals & Technology Enabled Care online event, we will be discussing patient flow and experience, reducing waiting times, reducing the patient backlog and increasing technology adoption. Will you be attending? 

Finger on the Pulse

Ep 14. Health messaging is a science, Professor Craig Jackson

On Episode 14 of NHE's Finger on the Pulse podcast, we're joined by Professor Craig Jackson, Professor of Occupational Health Psychology
Birmingham City University to discuss the coronavirus pandemic, the health messaging around it and how those in power have missed a trick by overlooking the key role of psychology in informing the public of restrictions, measures and the ever-changing situation

More articles...

View all