Eighteen NHS trusts now have more people in hospital with Covid-19 than they did at any point in the first wave of the pandemic, new data reveal.
Of these, six are in Yorkshire and six are in the North West of England, according to the latest figures published by NHS England, which provides figures on hospital bed occupancy up to November 5.
Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is currently treating the most Covid patients in England, with 413 beds occupied by patients with the virus.
This exceeds the 390 beds occupied by Covid-19 patients on April 13, until now the busiest point for the trust since the start of the pandemic.
While other hospital trusts haven’t yet seen the same numbers as in Liverpool, 17 other trusts – as the following graph shows – also now have more Covid-19 patients than they did at any point in the first wave.
The full list of NHS trusts where this applies is as follows:
- Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
- Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust
- Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
- Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust
- North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust
- Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust
- Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
- Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
- Stockport NHS Foundation Trust
- Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
- Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
- University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust
- East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust
- Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust
- Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
- Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust
- Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust
- Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Equivalent statistics published on October 14, showed that at that point in the second wave no NHS trust in England had more bed occupied by patients with Covid-19 than they did in the first wave.
In total, 4,313 beds were occupied by patients with Covid-19 in England on October 14. By November 5 that figure had risen to 11,122, a 160% increase in a matter of weeks.
Despite the sharp rise, the number of beds occupied by patients with Covid-19 across England remains below peak occupancy during April, when 18,970 beds were occupied.
This is largely due to low occupancy rates in hospitals in the south of the country, especially in London, which experienced some of the highest numbers of Covid-19 patients during the first wave of the pandemic.
For example, at its peak London North West University Trust had 456 beds occupied by patients with Covid-19. On November 5 it had just 71.
Dr Kit Yates, Independent Sage member and a senior lecturer in mathematical biology at the University of Bath, told HuffPost UK: “It doesn’t surprise me that a lot of them [hospital trusts] have reached previous levels.
“I think London was at about 40 hospital admissions per million people [seven-day average of admissions] when we locked down in March, and while not all regions are at the same level, the North East and Yorkshire is at about 70 per million.
“The Midlands is climbing and in the south-west, which everyone was saying we didn’t need to worry so much about because cases and hospitalisations were low, it was just that it was a bit behind the curve and it has now overtaken London in terms of its new admissions to hospital.
“We’ve just reached over two thirds of the level of people in hospital in England that we saw at the very peak of the first wave, so in some senses it’s not surprising that many places are worse than they were last time.”
Boris Johnson announced the current nationwide lockdown on October 31, almost six weeks after Sage warned the government that a circuit-breaker lockdown was desperately needed to limit cases.
Yates said a two-week lockdown would have “done a lot” to bring cases and hospitalisations down, and ultimately would have limited the current pressure on the NHS.
He added: “When you release a lockdown but haven’t introduced any additional measures, then of course cases will just rise again.
“What we advocated for on Independent Sage is to have a two week circuit breaker followed by a slow release back into slightly more relaxed measures to ensure R stays below one, and in that time try to reform systems like Test, Trace and Isolate so when cases do pick up we are able to reach people and actually support them to isolate.”
When it comes to a return to the tiered approach, which the government has proposed could be followed after December 2 when the current lockdown ends, Yates said it is unlikely anything less than tier 3 across the country will do enough to prevent a third spike.
He said: “There’s some evidence that tier 3, as we saw in Liverpool, has worked – cases have come down. But I think when we release restrictions, pretty much everywhere will have to go into tier 3 basically and then slowly reduce restrictions.
“If we want to have schools open, then we basically can’t bars, restaurants, hospitality and leisure all open at the same time because it will just push R back up above one.”
Yates’s comments echo those made by Sage scientists the day before lockdown began.