• Number of covid patients in London general hospital beds passed non-covid on 11 January
  • Number of non-covid patients in London hospitals has fallen by more than a third since mid December
  • Due to cancellation of planned care, reductions in emergency care, hospital outbreaks — as covid admissions rose rapidly
  • Also steep falls in the East and South East

There are now more patients who have confirmed covid-19 in London’s acute hospitals as those who do not, after the need to treat people with the virus displaced thousands of other patients.

On 11 January the number of covid patients in London’s adult general and acute hospital beds exceeded non-covid for the first time since the spring — at 5,644 compared to 5,592, according to NHS data. On 12 January, the most recent day where data is published, this swapped back by a small amount, with 5,563 covid patients and 5,740 non-covid.

Other figures seen by HSJ suggest that as of this morning, across all types of acute hospital beds in the capital including intensive care, there were about 300 more patients with covid in hospital beds than there were non-covid.

It follows large falls in the number of patients who do not have covid in hospital since mid December, particularly in the regions hardest hit first by the third wave: London, the south east, and the east.

The main reason is likely to be that hospitals in these areas have had to dramatically scale back non-covid planned (elective) care to cope with the surge of in London’s adult general and acute hospital beds. Other likely factors include more patients in hospital for other reasons testing positive, some due to hospital outbreaks; reductions in emergency activity linked to lockdown and avoidance of A&E/admission; and efforts to discharge more people.

Covid patients in London’s hospitals have increased nearly four-fold in a month, rising from 1,501 on 12 December; while the number of non-covid patients has fallen by more than a third from 9,324 over the same period.

A similar picture is emerging in the South East and East of England regions, where the share of total general adult beds occupied by non-covid patients has fallen to half.

There is a growing disparity between these regions and the capital with the rest of England, where between 64 per cent and 74 per cent of hospital beds are being used by people who have not tested positive for covid.

NHS regions outside the South and East have been instructed by NHS England to open up bed space in their critical care units for patients to be transferred out of London as the city’s hospitals grapple with the burden of covid patients.

There is some hope that this strain will start to ease, with covid admissions flattening in London and the South East in recent days. However, patients with covid can require hospital care for weeks so the pressure on beds will persist for some time yet.