Covid surge alert as hospitals nationwide cancel non-urgent operations

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And the Midlands has been told that hospitals in the North-east will make an increased amount of their critical-care beds available to them. At least 80 of 144 general and acute NHS hospital trusts have cancelled some or all planned non-urgent procedures this winter. In Cheshire, some urgent cancer treatments have been shelved.

Dr Daniele Bryden, of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine, said that the crisis in critical care was “extremely serious”. One in five large hospitals in England has no spare intensive care beds.

Scotland has a record number in hospital and in Northern Ireland the system is facing huge pressure as it braces for the peak.

The number of new infections announced yesterday in Scotland is 412 below the 1,753 announced on Saturday and is the lowest since December 28 – although there tend to be fewer cases recorded at the weekend.

But the number of patients continues to reach record levels – increasing daily since Christmas Day, when there were 973 people in hospital.

Yesterday there were 840 coronavirus patients in the Northern Ireland’s hospitals, 67 of whom were in ICUs.

The numbers in ICUs across the UK are set to increase in the coming days and peak before the end of January.

However, intensive care medics say many regional units will struggle.

There are also fears that people could be vulnerable to mutant viruses because the population is building up immunity to the original virus.

In South Africa, variant 501.V2 is thought to be responsible for the country’s ferocious second wave.

And in Brazil, a variant called P1 is forcing the death toll up.

Hospitals in Manaus have reached breaking point despite up to three quarters of the city contracting Covid last year.

Figures last week showed that 156 hospital critical care units in England and Wales were no longer able to provide “safe” one-to-one nursing beds filling up care.

Only 50 units reported having one intensive care nurse for each intensive care patient.

One unit hit a ratio of one to 4.4, raising concerns over the care for patients in need of lifesaving treatment and pressure on staff.

An extra critical care facility that opened at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital last weekend is already full.

Doctors have called for a change to the law to they do not feel “vulnerable to the risk of prosecution for unlawful killing” in circumstances beyond their control.

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