Only Four Hospitals in the Whole of England Are Busier Now Than Last Winter
Just 78,000 patients in hospitals compared to 92,000 last year
Number 10 was today accused of running a ‘brainwashing PR campaign’ after MailOnline’s analysis of official data showed only four NHS trusts in England are busier now than they were this time last year — despite warnings the health service would be crippled by coronavirus without the revamped three-tier lockdown system.
Michael Gove sparked fury over the weekend when he claimed that every hospital in England would be ‘physically overwhelmed’ by Covid-19 without the Government’s new restrictions, as he tried to persuade MPs and the public to support the brutal curbs.
But NHS England figures paint an entirely different picture, with thousands more hospital beds spare this year than last winter. On average, 77,942 out of 88,903 (87.7 per cent) available beds were occupied across the country in the week ending November 22, which is the most recent snapshot. This figure does not take into account make-shift capacity at mothballed Nightingales, or the thousands of beds commandeered from the private sector.
For comparison, occupancy stood at 94.9 per cent, on average, during the seven-day spell that ended December 8 in 2019 — which is the most comparable data available for last winter — when around 91,733 out of all 96,675 available beds were full. [In other words, albeit 8,000 beds were cut in the mean time, there are stil more available than were last year.]
Just four trusts — Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust (FT), University College London Hospitals FT, Calderdale and Huddersfield FT, and Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh FT — are busier now than they were a year ago.
In Cambridge, 769 of 823 beds were full (93.4 per cent) on average in the week ending November 22, compared to 883 out of 956 (92.5 per cent) last winter. Calderdale and Huddersfield was at 93.3 per cent capacity last week, with 499 out of 535 beds filled, slightly higher than the 92 per cent last December, when 596 of 648 beds were in use.
Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust is almost at full capacity, with 98.7 per cent of its 335 beds occupied. But that figure is still only marginally higher than the 96 per cent from last year. While University College London was 89.2 per cent full last December compared to 93 per cent last week.
Dr Karol Sikora [ex-WHO cancer chief, and formerly a COVID cultist and lockdowner], a consultant oncologist and professor of medicine at the University of Buckingham, said Downing Street was running a ‘brainwashing PR campaign’ with ‘data that doesn’t stack up’. He told MailOnline: ‘We’ve gone back to how it started in March, with [the Government] claiming we need the measures to protect the NHS. The data you’ve shown me proves that it doesn’t need protecting. It’s dealing with Covid very well indeed.
‘What the data shows is that hospitals are not working at full capacity and they’ve still got some spare beds for Covid if necessary. The public is being misled, the data doesn’t stack up. Fear and scaremongering is being used to keep people out of hospital.’
It comes as Laurence Fox sparked fury today after branding the NHS ‘unfit for purpose’ and saying health service staff ‘aren’t my saviours’. The actor said: ‘If you can’t deal with a 99.9 per cent survival rate virus, you aren’t fit for purpose. You don’t need protecting, my elderly relatives do.’
It’s true that nearly a third of English hospitals are seeing more coronavirus patients now than at the peak of the crisis in April.
But on the whole, there are still 4,000 fewer people with the disease in English hospitals compared to the darkest days in mid-April. For comparison, there were 18,970 Covid-19 patients receiving treatment on April 12 — the busiest day since the pandemic began, compared to 14,343, on average, in the week ending November 22.
An NHS spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘The pandemic has changed the way the NHS delivers care, with hospitals having to split services into Covid and non-Covid zones to protect patients in a way that was not necessary less than a year ago, meaning some beds cannot be used due to enhanced Infection Prevention and Control measures.
‘This means that trying to compare current occupancy figures with those from before the pandemic is like comparing apples and pears and does not reflect the very real pressures that hospitals are seeing due to rising numbers of patients with Covid-19, which is why it’s so important we all continue to follow the government guidelines and help stop the spread of the virus.’
MailOnline has approached the Department of Health and Social Care and the Cabinet Office for comment.
Dr Sikora described Mr Gove’s claims over the weekend as ‘bizarre’, adding: ‘The way out of this mess is for politicians to be honest and let people make their own decisions about the epidemic. Ministers must have more trust in the public, if you trust them they’ll repay your trust.’
Professor Carl Heneghan, an epidemiologist and expert in evidence-based medicine at Oxford University, said the analysis ‘didn’t surprise’ him. He added: ‘I think this is an incredibly important point, the data doesn’t add up. I think its imperative that people we elect now are informed.
‘It is now clear they [ministers] should have in front of them a combined information package that combines case data with NHS data and they should be provided that weekly in digestible format so it can inform their decisions.’
Professor Heneghan criticised the Government for continuing to push out the narrative that the NHS is on the brink despite publicly-available data showing the opposite, but added: ‘Unless you’ve been playing around with the data like I have, how is an MP meant to know how to access NHS record data?’
Professor Heneghan said: ‘There is a tendency to believe that more people in hospital with Covid is a bad thing, I tend to disagree – for one, the threshold for being admitted with the virus is lower.’
At the peak of the crisis in spring, doctors had to be selective about who they admitted to hospital because there were so many critically ill patients and the NHS was short on equipment such as ventilators and personal protective equipment.
But because more than 60,000 elderly and vulnerable people have already been killed by the virus, fewer patients with severe disease are coming forward, meaning hospitals have more scope to admit people with moderate illness. Professor Heneghan added: ‘There are reasons why this time round it may look worse, but that it isn’t the case. You’ve got to take these other features into account.’
The analysis of NHS figures is not an exact like-for-like comparison because it compares November this year to December last year. But the week ending December 8 is the earliest snapshot published by NHS England last winter.
The number of beds at the NHS’ disposal this year is lower than last year because of strict social distancing rules on wards and hospitals are battling with higher levels of staff taking sick leave. These two factors also, in theory, make it easier for hospitals to be overrun.
It is also known that many trusts have had to start cancelling routine operations to make more room for the influx of Covid during the second wave. This may have skewed the occupancy rates down and made the NHS look less busy than it otherwise would have been if the surgeries went ahead.
Meanwhile, furious Tory rebels have demanded Mr Gove publish the evidence underpinning his claim the NHS would be ‘overwhelmed’ by coronavirus without the Government’s new tiered system of restrictions.
The Minister for the Cabinet Office made the claim on Saturday as he tried to quash a Conservative revolt and persuade MPs to support the curbs when they are put to a vote on Tuesday.
But leading Tories responded with anger to the suggestion, as they called for the Government to stick to ‘hard evidence, not hyperbole’.
Mark Harper, the chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs which is opposing the measures, told Mr Gove that ‘if he genuinely thinks that hospitals would be overwhelmed, then show us the modelling’ which proves it.
The Government has be roundly criticised for using its scientists’ most gloom models to make terrifying charts and wheeling them out at official press conferences.
The vast majority of England — 99 per cent — is due to be placed into tier two or three, with only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly going into the lightest bracket.
As many as 100 Tory MPs are said to be considering rebelling for tomorrow’s crunch vote because they believe the Government has not yet made the case for the draconian measures.
Labour is expected to back the measures, meaning they will almost certainly be agreed in the House of Commons. But a Tory rebellion on the scale predicted would cause massive damage to Boris Johnson’s authority.
Mr Gove said in an article for The Times on Saturday that MPs must ‘take responsibility for difficult decisions’ to curb the spread of Covid-19 as he said every hospital in England could be in trouble if the tiers are not rolled out.
He said: ‘Covid is no respecter of constituency boundaries and the hardships we are facing now are unfortunately necessary to protect every single one of us, no matter where we live.
‘In any analysis of this government’s, or any government’s approach, the cost of lockdown and restrictions cannot be reckoned against the status quo ante, but only against the cost of inaction, or inadequate action, and the overwhelming of the NHS.’
He added: ‘The truth, however uncomfortable, sets you free. And these new tiers, alongside the wider deployment of mass testing, have the capacity to prevent our NHS being overwhelmed until vaccines arrive.’
It comes after actor Laurence Fox sparked branded the NHS as being ‘unfit for purpose’ and saying health service staff ‘aren’t my saviours.’
The actor, who is currently trying to turn his hand to a career in politics, faced backlash after revealing he had a ‘large group’ over for lunch — despite England’s current lockdown rules banning people from meeting indoors, or outdoors in groups larger than six.
After enjoying a get-together at the weekend, Fox tweeted: ‘The NHS isn’t my church and salvation. It’s employees aren’t my saviours. ‘If you can’t deal with a 99.9 per cent survival rate virus, you aren’t fit for purpose. You don’t need protecting, my elderly relatives do. I also love your emergency care and will continue to pay for it. For now.’
His message followed an earlier Tweet: ‘Just had a large group over to lunch and we hugged and ate and talked and put the world to rights. It was lovely. You’ll never take that away from people. Stay out. Protect your rights… If the NHS isn’t fit for purpose. Compliance is violence.’
The tweets sparked a fierce debate online. Actor Mark Dexter, who has appeared in Doctor Who and The Crown, tweeted: ‘Wasn’t going to get involved with the Laurence Fox stuff, but now he’s bragging about putting my family at risk, I figure why not.
‘I was once up against him for a US TV role — to play the son of James Fox’s character. As in, Laurence’s actual dad. I got it.’
Piers Morgan also hit out at Fox over his Covid-19 tweets amid England’s nationwide four-week lockdown. During Good Morning Britain on Monday, Piers hit out at Laurence, telling him the pandemic is ‘not about you’.
He said: ‘He’s made a lot of good comments about the wokies, I have sympathy for him. But his behaviour in the pandemic has gotten reckless. [He reads out the tweet].
‘Laurence, why don’t you just shut up? Seriously? Think about all the people who can’t see all their loved ones in care homes because they’re following the rules.
‘Not for their desire to carry on as normal, but because they’re thinking about other people. I just found that tweet ridiculous. It’s for the most vulnerable in our society, it’s to stop them being killed. It’s not about you.’
Source: The Daily Mail