Doom-mongers warn us for weeks that the NHS faces a winter crisis. An Omicron surge will also threaten its ability to provide adequate care.
With ‘Covid admissions rising steadily, these numbers only add to the national panic.
Yesterday we were told there were over 1,300 admissions in England on Tuesday – the highest daily figure since February.
The Prime Minister has so far resisted requests to impose new restrictions. However, if the number of hospital admissions continues to rise, pressure will increase in the New Year.
Doom-mongers warn us for weeks that the NHS faces a winter crisis. An Omicron surge will also threaten its ability to provide adequate care. (File image)
To get the full picture, it’s important to analyze the data.
Even if you ignore the fact that the NHS is subject to seasonal surges at certain times of the year it might surprise you by these facts.
For example, figures released only on a weekly basis show that about a third of supposed Covid patients arrived in hospital for other health reasons – and tested positive only once they were on the wards.
You can dig deeper to find out more.
In a hospital, four of every five patients admitted last week for Covid were in bed.
Given its relatively mild symptoms, but highly infectious nature, I expect this proportion will increase further, with more and more patients arriving for treatment for heart attacks, strokes and serious injuries – without realising they are also carrying Covid.
The Prime Minister has so far resisted requests to impose new restrictions in a commendable manner. However, if the number of hospital admissions continues to rise, there will be more pressure on the government.
However, they can present problems.
Health chiefs are right to point out that regardless of the reason a patient arrives at hospital with Covid or not, general wards must be avoided in order to prevent further spread. This puts additional strain on resources.
Which brings us to the real crisis facing the NHS – an emergency that is both largely unnecessary and easy to fix. After being positive for Covid, many thousands of NHS employees are now off the job.
Figures for December 19 show that almost 19,000 NHS employees in England alone were absent for this reason – up from just over 12,000 a week earlier.
In England, anyone who tests positive for Covid must self-isolate for seven days – an arbitrary period that has only recently been reduced from ten.
This is despite the Government’s strong resistance to any attempts to reduce it to five days. That is America’s rule for the asymptomatic.
It could, however, be less. In many cases and especially for healthy individuals, the infection is easily treated in a matter of days.
Simply put, many patients are at risk because of Government regulations that hamstring the NHS.
Healthy staff are being banned from returning to work for a week, following a positive test – even if they are symptomless and testing negative on days six and seven of their isolation period.
Hospitals cannot save lives without nurses, doctors and other professional staff.
Staff and patients must be protected against serious illness. However, we must be able to see the current situation and respond accordingly.
Omicron does not cause any more severe complications than other airborne infections of the upper respiratory system, such as those that are common.
It’s high time Boris Johnson cut the isolation period to five days – and stopped inflicting needless damage on the NHS. This could affect the ability of nurses and doctors save lives.
Serious illness from Omicron is unlikely for anyone double-jabbed and boosted, except in cases where patients are already so frail and vulnerable that any slight infection is dangerous – for example, in the very elderly.
Although there are now over 750 Covid intensive care patients, it is much lower than the 3,700 that we saw back in January.
Past Covid infections seem to confer excellent immunity, which can be supplemented with vaccinations.
The London Teaching Hospital where I treat cancer patients has never seen anyone become more seriously ill after they have caught the virus again.
If you have a third infection, it is typically no more serious than a mild sniffle.
The virus has been evolving quickly to be comparable with the common cold. The winter months are when most people get colds, doctors included.
While it’s annoying, hospitals and society don’t have to be shut down because of it. This is absurdity.
Now it’s high time Boris Johnson woke up to all this, cut the isolation period to five days – and stopped inflicting needless damage on the NHS.
This could affect the ability of nurses and doctors save lives.
Professor Angus Dalgleish works as an oncologist at a London teaching hospitals.