Number of Covid Hospital Patients in England Falls to Seven-Month Low

The number of people in English hospitals with Covid has fallen to the lowest level since last September, according to the latest NHS figures. The total is down by 96% from the peak in January. The Evening Standard has the story.

The number of patients in hospital in England with Covid has dropped to its lowest level for seven months, figures show.

A total of 1,310 patients were in hospital at 8am on April 27th, according to figures from NHS England.

This is the lowest since 1,299 on September 21st, and is down 96% from a record 34,336 on January 18th.

During the first wave of the virus, patient numbers peaked at 18,974 on April 12th 2020.

Both south-east and south-west England are reporting numbers down 98% on their second-wave peak, while eastern England has seen its number drop by 97%.

Patient numbers in the Midlands have fallen 96%, with London north-west England and the combined region of north-east England and Yorkshire all seeing drops of 95%.

The number of hospital admissions of patients with Covid has also dropped significantly since January.

Yet more good news, but will the Government – transfixed by the threat of Covid variants – take any notice?

Worth reading in full.

People in England Waiting to Start Hospital Treatment Hits Record High

The number of people waiting to receive hospital treatment continues to rise, with 4.7 million people stuck on a waiting list by the end of February in England. This is the highest number since 2007, highlighting the impact of a year in which the NHS focused on Covid patients at the expense of many others. BBC News has the story.

Around 4.7 million people were waiting for routine operations and procedures in England in February – the most since 2007, NHS England figures show.

Nearly 388,000 people were waiting more than a year for non-urgent surgery compared with just 1,600 before the pandemic began.

During January and February, the pressure on hospitals caused by Covid was particularly acute.

NHS England said two million operations took place despite the winter peak.

However surgeons said hospitals were still under huge pressure due to the second wave of Covid, which had led to “a year of uncertainty, pain and isolation” for patients waiting for planned treatment.

Tim Mitchell, Vice-President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, has asked how much longer those whose treatments have been delayed can be expected to wait.

Although the most urgent operations for cancer and life-threatening conditions went ahead, hundreds of thousands of patients waiting for routine surgery such as hip and knee operations, cochlear implants and vascular operations had their treatment cancelled or postponed.

People have been patient as they’ve seen the battering the pandemic has given the NHS, but how much longer can they be expected to wait?

This news again highlights the importance of Professor Karol Sikora’s oft-repeated, yet consistently ignored proposal for a Government press conference to be held which is entirely dedicated to non-Covid related illnesses.

Worth reading in full.

Hospital Covid Outbreaks Caused in Part by Wrong Staff Getting PPE

Covid outbreaks in hospitals have been caused in part by the wrong staff receiving full personal protective equipment (PPE), a new study suggests. Official guidelines have dictated that the best PPE should be given to doctors and nurses treating patients who require medical oxygen, but new research shows that less severely ill patients are more likely to infect people around them. The Telegraph has the story.

An international team of researchers has established that less severely ill patients are far more likely to infect people around them than those critical enough to require oxygen.

The findings appear to contradict official guidelines, which ration the best PPE to doctors and nurses treating patients who require medical oxygen, on the basis that doing so requires the performance of “aerosol-generating procedures”.

Often working in intensive care units, these staff are given eye protection, a tight fitting particle respirator mask, long-sleeved fluid-repellent gowns and gloves.

Those working with less ill Covid patients had to go without eye protection, were given only a standard surgical mask, as well as a disposable apron and gloves.

However, the new findings show that the typical activities of less severely ill Covid patients – breathing, talking, shouting, coughing and exercising – actually generated 100 times more aerosol particles than those receiving oxygen.

The study found that oxygen therapies – officially considered the most high-risk for infection – actually reduced the amount of aerosols.

It was carried out after figures emerged showing that staff working on wards who wear only standard surgical masks have around two to three times higher rates of infection than those working in ICU.

One of the study’s co-authors, Professor Euan Tovey, said that less severely ill Covid patients – who have been treated by doctors and nurses with less effective PPE – posed a great risk.

The coughing and laboured breathing common in patients with Covid produces a lot more droplets and aerosols than is produced by patients being treated with oxygen therapies.

Surgical facemasks provide inadequate protection against aerosols and staff safety can only be increased by more widespread use of specialised tight-fitting respirators – N95 or FFP3 masks – and increased indoor ventilation.

Also, as the respiratory therapies did not significantly increase aerosols, these treatments should be made widely available to patients with Covid who need them.

Another researcher, Professor Tim Cook, suggested that these findings warrant a change in policy regarding the rationing of PPE.

Our findings strongly support the re-evaluation of guidelines to better protect hospital staff, patients and all those on the front line who are dealing with people who have, or are suspected of having, Covid.

Worth reading in full.

Cancer Deaths Likely to Rise for First Time in Decades Due to Covid Backlog, Charities Warn

A coalition of 47 cancer charities has warned the Government that cancer deaths will rise for the first time in decades unless the Covid backlog is addressed. MailOnline has the story.

Cancer deaths will rise for the first time in decades unless urgent action is taken to tackle the Covid backlog, the Government was warned today.  

One Cancer Voice, a coalition of 47 cancer charities, argued more money and staff are desperately needed to address problems stemming from the pandemic.

The charities – speaking collectively for the first time – also asked for the NHS to be given greater access to private facilities.

They said almost 45,000 UK patients “living with cancer without knowing it” should have started treatment in 2020 but did not due to delays caused by coronavirus.

Cancer experts today praised the charities for raising awareness of “the biggest crisis in oncology” seen in more than 50 years.

Official data released last week showed cancer waiting times have spiked during the pandemic because hospital staff and surgeries have been preoccupied with coronavirus patients.

The proportion of suspected patients seen by a specialist within the two-week target hit a record-low of 83% in January, NHS England said. 

It means nearly 30,000 people with suspected cancer waited more than a fortnight to find out whether or not they had the disease in January. Early treatment and diagnosis is crucial in preventing the disease spreading and becoming deadly. 

And the pandemic has led to an increase in the proportion of patients waiting more than a month to start crucial cancer treatment after their diagnosis.

Figures from NHS England last week revealed that cancer is not the only disease to have been neglected because of the focus on Covid. Altogether, some 4.59 million people were waiting to begin treatment at the end of January – the highest since records began in August 2007.

Worth reading in full.

Record 4.6 Million People on Waiting List to Begin Hospital Treatment

The number of people waiting to receive hospital treatment in England has reached a record high as a result of Covid and lockdowns. Sky News has the story.

Some 4.59 million people were waiting to begin treatment at the end of January, according to NHS England.

It is the highest since records began in August 2007.

The number waiting more than a year was 304,044 in January – the highest for any month since January 2008.

In comparison, the number in January 2020 was just 1,643.

With lockdown in force and many hospitals dealing with record numbers of Covid patients, January also saw a 54% drop in people admitted for routine treatment.

Some 139,378 patients were admitted, compared with 304,888 the same time last year.

More people were receiving pre-planned and emergency care in January 2021 than in April 2020, but the figures still leave much to be desired.

Despite battling the January peak – when more than 100,000 people needed Covid hospital treatment – NHS England said staff still managed to care for 1.3 million people without the virus.

That’s a significant rise on the 847,000 treated during the peak of the first wave in April 2020.

Around 400,000 more people also got pre-planned care and 70,000 emergency care in January compared with April.

Hospitals are now in a much better position to start working through the backlog as the Covid strain has eased significantly since January.

Perhaps more attention should be paid to Professor Karol Sikora’s suggestion that “just one of these endless press conferences [by the Government should] be dedicated to non-Covid related illnesses“.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The NHS performed 40% fewer heart operations as Britain entered lockdown this January.

Up to Two Thirds of Serious Covid Infections are Caught in Hospital – Study

An important pre-print was published last week by Public Health Scotland looking at how all 204,913 people eligible for shielding (the “clinically extremely vulnerable”) – about 3% of the population – have fared during the COVID-19 pandemic. The researchers matched all 160,307 positive cases of COVID-19 (as of January 28th) to individuals in Scotland to form a complete picture of the course of their illness in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the shielding programme.

Their striking conclusion was they found “no evidence that the shielding programme per se reduced COVID-19 rates”, though they allowed for the possibility that “without shielding advice and support the outcome in this group would have been worse”.