Video report by ITV News Correspondent Damon Green
Hospitals in some parts of the country are treating more patients with coronavirus than at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic, NHS England has said.
The number of patients being admitted is “rising sharply”, NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said, with some hospitals in Liverpool, Lancashire and Nottingham treating more coronavirus patients than they did in April.
It comes after the former chief scientific adviser to the government said the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 could more than double within weeks.
Professor Sir Mark Walport said that it is “not unrealistic” to think that there could be 25,000 people in hospitals by the end of November.
More than 9,000 patients are in UK hospitals with the disease with 7,454 of those in England.
The number in north-west England, as of October 26, stood at 2,407 – the highest since April 23 and not far below the peak of the first wave, which was 2,890 on April 13.
In north-east England and Yorkshire, the latest total is 1,962. This is the highest since April 28.
By contrast, in the Midlands the total on October 26 stood at 1,203 – less than half the peak of the first wave – 3,101 on April 10.
Meanwhile, hospitals in Northern Ireland are treating more people with Covid-19 than during the first peak of the pandemic.
According to official statistics, there are 360 inpatients – the highest in the first wave was 322 on April 8.
The October 26 data shows there were 1,052 people in hospital beds in Scotland with Covid-19 and 654 in Wales.
However, figures from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC) indicate coronavirus patients in critical care have a better chance of surviving now than when the pandemic started in the UK.
The data shows that on average 39% of critical care coronavirus patients died up until the end of August, with just less than 12% dying since.
Professor Powis said: “Hospitals have local and regional plans in place to respond to additional demand, and the NHS has prepared carefully – we also have new life-saving treatments, better understand the oxygen treatments, and survival rates in intensive care have increased.
“However, coronavirus cases and hospitalised patients are rising sharply and in some parts of the country including Liverpool, Lancashire and Nottingham, hospitals are now treating more Covid patients than at the peak of the pandemic in April."
Meanwhile, the number of patients with Covid-19 at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust has jumped by 27% in five days.
University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust has said "some procedures and non inpatient activity will have to be postponed" to manage "large numbers of very sick patients" across its three main sites.
The trust said cancelling any procedure is regrettable but necessary in response to "the sustained and growing pressures on our hospitals".
It added that patients with "urgent clinical needs and cancer" are being prioritised.
Nightingale hospitals in northern England were put on standby earlier this month as a result of rising cases.
A spokesperson for the NHS in the North West said: “The NHS Nightingale Hospital North West will accept patients from today to provide care for those who do not have Covid-19, but do need further support before they are able to go home, such as therapy and social care assessments.”
Other hospitals have said that only essential operations will go ahead as wards and intensive care units fill up.
In Leeds, health officials said only essential operations will go ahead at hospitals in the city after the number of Covid-19 patients passed the totals treated at the peak of the first wave.
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust – which runs Leeds General Infirmary and St James’s Hospital – said it was postponing some planned operations due to pressures.
Four cancer operations were cancelled in Nottingham on Tuesday, the Independent reported.
Nottingham University Hospitals Trust said pressure on intensive care units from Covid-19 and non-Covid related emergencies meant it needed to postpone the procedures.
Airedale Hospital, near Keighley, West Yorkshire, said it is suspending non-urgent surgery for two weeks.
It said in a statement: "We are seeing increasing demand on the hospital which is in turn meaning that our inpatient beds are at capacity.
"As a result, and as per our escalation plans, we have taken the decision to postpone any elective surgery that needs an overnight stay. This comes into effect immediately for the next two weeks."
The Health Service Journal reported that the latest NHS data showed a 42% increase in patients admitted or newly diagnosed in North East and Yorkshire hospitals.
It said 12.2% of acute and general beds in South Yorkshire were occupied by Covid patients, according to the latest figures, which is up from 2.2% a month before.
Professor Powis said: “As we work to minimise the spread of the virus, we continue to urge people to continue to attend NHS appointments, routine screening, and if you need urgent care, please help us to help you and come forward for care."
Susan Crossland, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, told PA: “There are real concerns that the NHS is starting to struggle across the country now and that is worrying considering the workforce has not really recovered from the first peak earlier in the year.
“We now see Covid rotas coming into play which means redeployment for some staff – especially juniors – and more intense working arrangements for senior clinicians which will increase pressure greatly on those already stressed.”