Grim new milestone in UK infections Fear wards could be full by Christmas Drugs may run out with a no-deal Brexit
HOSPITALS could be closed to nonCovid patients by Christmas, experts warned, as the total number of coronavirus infections recorded in the UK topped one millon.
The Department of Health said there were 21,915 new cases confirmed in the past 24 hours, taking the total since the start of the pandemic to 1,011,660.
Nearly 10,000 virus patients are in hospital, with 978 in ventilator beds.
The official Covid-19 death toll stands at 46,555, but ONS data recording cases where the virus is mentioned on death certificates shows 62,000 fatalities.
The rise in infections will heap more pressure on the NHS, with growing concern it could soon be overwhelmed.
An NHS England report, which helped prompt Mr Johnson’s lockdown U-turn, says hospitals in some areas could run out of space “within two weeks”.
Dated October 28, it says: “The Health Service may not be able to accommodate any more patients by Christmas, even if the Nightingales are all used and non-urgent procedures are cancelled.”
The South West and Midlands would be the first to run out of beds, it said, “potentially within a fortnight”.
It goes on to say: “If there is no change of course the NHS will not be able to accept any more patients by Christmas.”
The grave alert implies further rises in the huge backlog of non-Covid patients awaiting treatment for other potentially fatal illnesses, such as cancer.
The news comes as scientists warn that virus deaths could hit 4,000 a day if a worst-case scenario plays out.
Prof Calum Semple, of the University of Liverpool, said the national spread was now “like a supertanker”. He added: “It’s been slow, but now it’s running riot across all age groups”.
Prof Semple, who is a member of the Government’s Sage group of scientific experts, also added: “The important thing now is to try to keep capacity in the NHS so that car crashes can be done and people who need intensive care or long-term care can be treated. This is about keeping the NHS open”.
Prof Anthony Gordon, of Imperial College London, defended the imposition of a national lockdown.
He said: “We have to stop the speed of the virus because if we don’t the health service will be overwhelmed.”
Fears over a lack of hospital capacity in the middle of a bleak winter were made all the more stark by claims a no-deal Brexit on January 1 could leave the NHS short of drugs and equipment.
A string of experts have told the
Sunday Mirror they fear the health service could be “crucified” by supply chain issues if we crash out of the EU while still battling a surge in infections.
Dr Richard Vautrey, the chairman of the British Medical Association, said: “This could be the hardest winter we
Amazing NHS staff are now tired and demoralised BMA CHIEF ON FEARS OF LOOMING WINTER CRISIS
have faced. There is a lot of concern about Brexit and what will happen if proper flow of medicines is not maintained.
“This creates added worry. We entered the pandemic with an insufficient workforce and insufficient funding for the NHS.
“Our workforce has done amazingly well to respond to this but staff are now tired and demoralised as they try to gear themselves up for an extremely difficult winter.”
The pro-European pressure group Best for Britain says it has found it “extremely difficult” to get the Government to answer questions on whether drug stocks are sufficient.
Chief executive Naomi Smith said: “We were relatively well-equipped at the start of this year because we had already stockpiled for no-deal. As far as I’m aware, many of these stockpiles have now been depleted and not been restocked in the way they would need to be.
“We are repeatedly told, ‘It’s going to be fine, we are going to put provisions in place,’ – but they don’t specify what these will be.”
One NHS manager told the Sunday Mirror: “My fear is a hard Brexit while still in the second wave. It will kill us. I’ve been called a doom-monger but now people are saying, ‘ You’re right’.
“We coped in the last wave because we had the stocks. Now, we’ve used them up and we don’t have the money or the space to start building them up again.”
PPE supplies also remains a worry for staff, despite ministers promising four-months’ supply of key kit would be in stock by November.
A total of 1,131 doctors told a BMA survey they were “not at all confident” enough of the life-saving equipment would be provided.
And two thirds of doctors said they were concerned about staff shortages. Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the “NHS needs to be given the resources to keep patients safe” after “ten years of Tory underfunding”.
He added: “The Government has a responsibility to ensure the smooth supply of vital medicines and equipment.”