Hospitals across the country have been ordered to free up every possible bed to accommodate the growing number of Covid patients ahead of an expected surge in cases over the coming months.
The entire NHS is to be on the highest state of alert until at least the end of March as the number of patients with Covid continues to push the system to breaking point.
Hospital bosses fear that the new strain of coronavirus is already leading to a surge in the number patients needing inpatient care.
Saffron Cordery, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, told the Guardian that cases are rising across the country, particularly in London and the south-east.
Cordery said: “The London ambulance service said Boxing Day had been one of its ‘busiest ever’ days. It said it was now taking up to 8,000 999 calls a day compared to 5,500 on a typical ‘busy’ day.”
A consultant at Southampton general hospital told the Guardian: “Our general intensive care unit [ICU] footprint is now completely overfull of Covid patients. We have expanded our ICU by 10 extra beds to take ICU patients from both Portsmouth and Kent as they are so hard-pressed. [The situation] is under control so far but unpleasant and scary.”
Before Christmas, hospital bosses in London had been told to cancel cancer surgery in order to free up capacity to deal with Covid patients.