One week into the New Year and from what I see and hear from friends and family, the NHS is just about broken. Two people tell me after working all day they were asked to work all night as well. I am sure there have been many others too.
The media are reassuring us that the Army have arrived to help out. They can turn their hand to most jobs, but if you look at the numbers there is far less than would appear. In London there is only about one army medic per hospital, with about three other general pairs of hands for routine jobs. It is not going to make much of an impact on the care being given. Several Ambulance trusts are relying on army drivers to drive the ambulances leaving the paramedics to treat patients. Do not think for one moment I do not praise our very versatile military personnel who always come up trumps. They deal much more with humanitarian crises than war these days.
The crunch point is the NHS. 2,434 patients were admitted on one day on 3rd January and 2,078 admitted the day before. The total number in a hospital bed yesterday amounted to 18,454, compared with 17,998 the day before. A rise of almost 500 in 24 hours.
Surprisingly, the number on a ventilator has been stable for some time and even slightly dropping, with 868 reported today and 875 the day before. Now I ask my readers who work in ITU, has your practice changed? I suspect more people are having non-invasive ventilation than a year ago, meaning less are intubated and maintained on a ventilator. This may well account for this anomaly in the figures. Are more antiviral drugs being used, are higher doses of steroids being used earlier? All these could change the statistics.
Over 2 million tests were done yesterday and a further 1.8 million today. This means 11.6 million tests have been done in 7days, 18% more than the previous week. The number positive remains static, 178 thousand today and 179 thousand yesterday. This is equivalent to a 20% rise over 7 days The positive rate is now very high at 1,879 in every 100k being positive.
The number of daily deaths remains significant but not static, 229 recorded today and 231 yesterday. 1,140 deaths have been recorded in the last week, an increase of 46%. However, we cannot trust this figure because of the problems recording deaths in a timely way. There has been a very slight rise in the death rate which is now 1.4 deaths per 100,000 people.
There are variations around the country with London possibly passing it’s peak and the NW having significantly higher figures. The overall R rate in the UK is estimated between 1.2 and 1.5 according to the NHS Health Security Agency.
I understand there has been a drop off in the numbers coming forward for vaccines. There may be good reasons such as isolating or even having Covid. Please, this remains the safest way to protect yourself and others. We hear daily of the tragic consequences of not doing so. We still have only 90.2 % of first doses done, 82.8% of second doses and 61% of third doses.
With the NHS staff absence tripling in a week, we are on course for a real crisis. There were 39 thousand plus off sick on the 2nd January compared with 12 thousand on 1st December in London. If you add the rest of the country, it is in excess of 40,000.
With over 20 trusts declaring critical or major incidents with staff absences, two more have joined them tonight, Stafford and Northampton. Portsmouth has had its hospital knocked out as the water supply has failed following a major leak and flooding which required wards to be evacuated.
I think apart from obviously avoiding Covid we now need to take active steps to avoid needing any NHS services. Please be extra care out in ice and snow. Please try to avoid a fracture. Do you really have to go out and take risks. We can reduce the risks of car accidents by staying at home. Take no risks with any DIY work you are doing at home. If you have chronic health problems like diabetes, monitor it extra carefully, keep taking all medication, get repeat prescriptions in good time. You should plan to stay away from hospitals. In genuine emergencies please still dial 999, but if you have cut your thumb or burnt a toe, please organise help yourself. Be prepared to help your neighbours.
As for Covid, it is essential we keep up our guard, use a lot of common sense and continue caring for one another.
Please stay safe.