Coronavirus hospitalisations pass April peak but Nightingales remain empty
NHS boss Simon Stevens says we are 'back in the eye of the storm'
The number of patients in hospital being treated for coronavirus is at a record high, surpassing the pandemic's previous peak in April.
Yesterday the UK also recorded its highest number of new cases, 41,385.
The majority of hospital admissions are in London, nearly 5,000 of them, and the total number of people being treated on wards in England is now 20,426, compared to the 18,974 recorded on April 12.
Dr Yvonne Doyle, Public Health England medical director, said: "This very high level of infection is of growing concern at a time when our hospitals are at their most vulnerable, with new admissions rising in many regions."
And yet the seven custom built Nightingale hospitals stand largely empty across the country. Only Exeter's is currently operational - having started treating patients in mid-November. The Telegraph reports this is down a shortage of staff.
The hospitals cost £220 million to build.
The Nightingale at Birmingham's NEC is empty, Sunderland's is on standby. NHS England said Manchester is open for "non-Covid care," Exeter and Harrogate as "specialist diagnostics centres," and Bristol for "local NHS services."
Martin Llewelyn, a professor of infectious diseases and NHS consultant, described the number of coronavirus patients in hospital as "staggering."
Back on the wards today. Staggering amount of covid. Striking difference from last time - large family outbreaks with teenagers/young adults the focus. Multiple family members being admitted. Not looking forward to next two weeks.
Please follow the rules this new years eve.
— Martin Llewelyn (@MartinLlewelyn) December 28, 2020
The chief executive of the NHS, Sir Simon Stevens, said: "Now again we are back in the eye of the storm with a second wave of coronavirus sweeping Europe and, indeed, this country.
"Many of us have lost family, friends, colleagues and - at a time of year when we would normally be celebrating - a lot of people are understandably feeling anxious, frustrated and tired."
"We think that by late spring with vaccine supplies continuing to come on stream we will have been able to offer all vulnerable people across this country COVID vaccination.
"That perhaps provides the biggest chink of hope for the year ahead."