The inconvenient truth: More patients were in hospital two years ago than during current Covid wave, writes SHAUN WOOLLER
One in ten NHS staff are also off work, with many isolating, placing additional strain on the health service – though it is no worse than at this time last year.
But Boris Johnson is confident the country can ride out the current wave without further restrictions.
So is there reason for optimism?
Hospitals in England have had fewer beds occupied this winter than they did pre-Covid, latest figures show. An average of 89,097 general and acute beds were open each day in the week to December 26, of which 77,901 were occupied.
But the NHS was looking after more hospital patients in the week to December 26, 2019. Data from NHS England show there were an average of 95,917 beds open and 86,078 occupied that week, giving an occupancy rate of 89.7 per cent.
This is higher than the 87.4 per cent in the most recent data, suggesting there is room for further admissions.
The number of beds unavailable because of Norovirus outbreaks has almost halved, which makes it easier to move patients around, allowing for further admissions.
Where’s the flu?
Despite bleak warnings of a ‘double peak’ of flu and Covid crippling the NHS, seasonal influenza has yet to take off – reducing normal winter pressures on hospitals.
Flu cases are currently 95 per cent below levels of 2019-20, the last winter before the pandemic.
During the last bad flu season, in 2017-2018 there were 22,000 flu deaths in England and Wales – but latest ONS data shows that over the past month there have been just 1,640 deaths due to flu.