Hospitals in Tier 4 are cancelling ops and preparing to send Covid patients elsewhere
Hospital - Peter Byrne / PA
Tier 4 hospitals are canceling scheduled surgeries and preparing to relocate Covid patients in need of critical care.
Professor Joe Harrison, executive director of the NHS Foundation Trust at Milton Keynes University, said his hospital had now made plans to send critical Covid patients to Oxford as he expected a further surge in admissions over the next two weeks.
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On Wednesday, he warned that trust is busier now than it was any other time in the pandemic. Covids approvals rose 50 percent higher than in March.
Meanwhile, Greenwich and Lewisham NHS Trust announced on Wednesday that hospitals in the London boroughs are canceling all scheduled surgeries except cancer and endoscopies due to the rising number of Covid patients.
The developments come as the daily death toll from Covid hit 744 that week, the highest since April, and daily cases peaked at 39,237.
According to NHS sources, hospitals in England were now less than 1,000 patients away from surpassing numbers seen at the height of the crisis in April.
The current surge has been linked to a new variant of the virus that experts warn could be more contagious than previous strains.
On Wednesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that six million more people will have to meet the highest Tier 4 restrictions as of Boxing Day in order to contain the latest wave.
Travelers were also restricted for people from South Africa after another new variant of Covid was discovered there, although there were only two confirmed cases in the UK.
Speaking on the BBC Today program on Wednesday, Prof. Harrison said he was currently in a discussion training Oxford hospitals on sending critical patients to their "supercentres".
"Our intensive care unit here is full of all Covid patients, and that's nine beds that are available to us," he said.
“If we see a further increase, we have additional capacities that we can use from our neighboring organizations, which would mean that patients would be transported away.
"What we're going to do is for patients who need higher-intensity care. We're going to make a clinical decision about whether there is a patient to withdraw from intensive care or who needs to be discharged from the hospital."
Prof. Harrison added, "We haven't had to identify any patients in the first or second wave."
From Boxing Day Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Hampshire - with the exception of the New Forest - and parts of Essex and Surrey will be moved to Tier 4.
The move means that more than half of England's population, 26 million people, will live under the most severe restrictions.
Ministers are also coming under pressure to impose an English lockdown amid resurgent Covid infections.
Earlier this week Andrew Hayward, member of the Government Advisory Board, Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) and professor of infectious diseases at UCL said that a national lockdown would send the public a "clearer and more consistent message" about the magnitude of the new rising wave.
Another SAGE member also said Wednesday that the current surge in infections is now worse than the first wave of the virus.
Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, said the increase in deaths shows how severe the underlying increase is, with around a third more patients surviving Covid due to improved treatments.
In a tweet he said: "The 744 Covid deaths in the UK are the highest since April 29th. Remember, treatment improved and saved many lives.
“Since April [there has been a reduction of more than] 30 percent. Hospital death rates are now much lower, and 744 deaths have been reported. It's heartbreaking and tragic. [The] situation is worse than 'wave 1'. "
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