NHS in London in danger of collapsing

London’s hospitals are less than two weeks from being overwhelmed by covid-19 cases even under the ‘best’ case scenario, according to an official private briefing given to the capital’s most senior doctors on 6th January.

Since then, the London Mayor has declared a major incident and in recent days, the daily UK death toll has passed 1,000. “The last time we hit this number, we were still 22 days away from the peak,” said Zudin Puthucheary, a respiratory and intensive care consultant at the Royal London Hospital. The UK daily number of deaths hit a new record on Friday of 1,325.

The NHS England presentation showed that even if the number of covid patients grew at the lowest rate considered likely, and measures to manage demand and increase capacity, including open the capital’s Nightingale hospital, were successful, the NHS in London would be short of nearly 2,000 general and acute and intensive care beds by 19 January. click full source

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“Manpower is the key thing, but we have everybody in – everybody who can be,” says Puthucheary. “The next stage is: will we have enough equipment? Probably. Will we have enough drugs? We think we do. But it’s a logistical nightmare and we don’t know the answers yet.

The next week to 10 days is seen as critical – the test of whether the system might buckle under the pressure of spiralling case numbers, rising staff shortages and the challenge of administering vaccines. “There are all these races against time going on that could decide if the NHS holds up, or imply can’t manage,” said one senior consultant at a top London hospital.

Nurses tend to patient
intensive care units across the UK are already almost full to capacity. Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian

Last week the chairman of the BMA, Chaand Nagpaul, wrote to his members saying a total of more than 46,000 healthcare staff were off work with Covid-19 across the UK. He said the need for frontline staff to be vaccinated was acute. Staff absences across the whole of the NHS last April reached 6%. Sources inside the service believe the real figure now may be above 12%.

Brexit has also played its part, and many international staff have left the country. “We lost a vast number of trained staff very, very quickly in the last six months,” says Puthucheary. “Intensive care units have been staffed by Portuguese nurses, Spanish nurses, Italian nurses, left, right and centre, and they’ve left. The ones who stayed are the ones who’ve got personal ties to the country.” click full source

So, there we have it. The price of having celebrated Christmas with loved ones may well be counted in lives. The number of infections are in the system already and with new positive cases running at over 60,000 per day, these dire predictions could be correct. The main worry is the manpower shortage, which coupled with rising demand may compromise all NHS services including the vaccination programme. Even harsher restrictions at this stage will not make much difference in the next few weeks.

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