Despite the number of people in hospital with COVID having hit a new high this week, there are encouraging signs from the south that the winter wave may have peaked.
According to NHS England statistics cited by the Health Service Journal (HSJ), hospital admissions of patients who have tested positive for coronavirus in London and the South East have fallen for the first time since Christmas.
Data shows that the rolling seven-day total of admissions for London on 10 January stood at 5,919 – a fall of 131 from the previous day.
In the South East, the seven-day rolling average on 10 January was 4,551 – down 82 from the previous day.
Both drops represent the first decreases in each area since December, while the seven-day rolling averages only slightly increased in the days leading up to 10 January, according to the figures.
It comes as Boris Johnson told the House of Commons that tougher lockdown measures were potentially starting to have an impact.
He said: “We are now seeing – and it’s very, very important to stress that these are early days – we are now seeing the beginnings of some signs that [lockdown] is starting to have an effect in many parts of the country – but by no means everywhere.”
However, hospital figures hit a new high in the UK this week, with 35,075 COVID patients on wards as of Monday – a 22% increase from last week.
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Hospital admissions are also continuing to rise across the five other regions in England, the HSJ said.
Despite the drop in admissions in some parts of England, pressures on the NHS continue to affect those working in hospital, with doctors and nurses at “breaking point” and feeling “exhausted”, according to Dr Caroline Walker, an NHS psychiatrist who has been counselling intensive care unit (ICU) workers.
Asked on BBC Breakfast what ICU staff were currently telling her, she said: “I’ve spoken to several doctors and nurses working in ICUs across the country over the last week and they are really struggling.
“They’re really at breaking point, or exhausted, or overwhelmed, they’re demoralised and there’s a real sense of dread actually, as we know that the peak of the second wave is still yet to hit.”
Dr Nikki Kanani, medical director of primary care for the NHS in England, said the pressure on hospitals was the “worst” she had known it to be.
She told Good Morning Britain: “It’s really pressured, its staff are absolutely working beyond all of their time and energy.”
When asked if it is the worst she has known it to be, she added: “Yes, it is the worst for staff, for services, our sector.”
Asked if the NHS could end up overwhelmed, health secretary Matt Hancock told BBC Breakfast that the government is doing “everything we possibly can to give the NHS the support, the resources it needs”.
Hancock was speaking amid reports that NHS hospitals were considering plans to discharge patients early and transfer them to hotels to free up space.
The health secretary said sending some patients to hotels was a “further back-up plan” if appropriate for the patient but “it’s not something we are actively putting in place”.
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