Covid patients in London’s hospitals to double by new year

Predictions on Covid occupancy for London, shared with senior leaders on Tuesday evening, showed the total number of beds occupied by Covid patients in the capital may increase from the current total of 1,349 to 2,269 by 3 January, according to sources.

The number of Covid-19 patients in London hospitals could almost double by the new year as the omicron variant hits “every borough”, The Independent has learned.

Lower projections estimated the number could be 1,913 if there is a lower rate of Covid cases, sources said.

Leaders were also told the new omicron variant was now “in every borough” and warned infections in the over-60s were rising. Although the high infection rate is largely being driven by 25 to 35 year olds.

As a region, London has the highest daily recorded infections in the country, with 12,832 recorded on Tuesday, and the largest proportion of unvaccinated people, with one-third of its population yet to receive any doses. All cases in London are now being treated as omicron, leaders were told yesterday.

One source said NHS England told trusts the pressures facing the capital are likely to focus on acute bed shortages, with an estimated 2 per cent increase in admissions each day.

During the briefing, leaders were also shown data that revealed a sharp increase in patients calling 111 needing assessments for Covid-19 since the beginning of the month, while northeast London had the highest Covid-19 case rate in the capital.

According to NHS data, London currently has the highest percentage of beds, 15 per cent, taken up by Covid patients, compared to 13 per cent nationally.

There has been a steep increase in new hospital admissions in the capital during the last week, while Professor Tim Spector told BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday that Covid cases in London were accelerating more than was seen in the first wave of the virus.

During the second Covid-19 wave, the highest number of new daily admissions occurred on 8 January at 865, while the total number of patients in London hospitals with Covid reached a peak of 7,917 on the 18 January 2021.

London, however, is going into this current wave with a higher level of bed occupancy overall, amid increased emergency care activity and admissions. According to data shared with NHS leaders, there were more than 160 patients waiting for more than 12 hours in A&E on 6 December, compared to fewer than 20 on the same day last year.

On Wednesday, Graham Medley, professor of infections diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told BBC Radio 4 that hospitalisations from Covid nationally could reach 2,000 a day.

He said: “I think it is a very real possibility that if the numbers of infections increasing continues in the way that it has done and it spills out into older age groups than we could see the number of people being omitted to hospital getting very large and certainly going over the thousand, maybe up to 2,000 a day.”

During last winter’s Covid wave there was a peak of 3,768 admissions in a single day.

NHS England said the figures shared were not “confirmed modelling” and that the region was planning for a number of different scenarios.

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