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No one in the NHS wants to see another covid wave. But one trust’s projections suggest it is on the way – and is likely to arrive soon. According to forecasts in Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust’s board papers, it could be dealing with a peak of patients nearly as high as the first wave as early as June – and that is in a “reasonably optimistic” scenario.

If things get really bad, the trust expects between 150 and 200 beds to be occupied by covid patients as early as mid-May. That is way above last April’s peak and over half of the level it saw in early January when it was hit by cases of the Kent variant.

The forecasts are heavily reliant on factors such as the efficacy of the vaccine and how the public behaves over the next few weeks. Just like last autumn, cases would start to rise in younger age groups and then spread to older and more vulnerable cohorts, it argues.

The positive news is that, by the end of the summer, some sort of herd immunity from a mix of vaccination and people who have had covid and recovered could drive admissions to very low levels. And current admissions are below the predicted levels… but the papers warn this could quickly change. It may never come to pass but the projections will add to the feeling that the NHS may not yet be out of the mire of covid.

Stand by your beds

Hospitals can expect more visits from inspectors from next month as the Care Quality Commission increases its on-site scrutiny.

The CQC has said it will return to inspecting and rating trusts which are rated “inadequate” and “requires improvement” from April.

The watchdog will also carry out well-led inspections of mental health trusts, and continue focused checks on providers’ infection control practices, maternity and emergency departments.

GP services rated “requires improvement” or “inadequate” are also expected to be visited.

It represents a significant expansion of regulatory activity from the CQC compared to the winter, during which it only undertook inspections where there were clear risks to safety and quality.

The regulator said it is restarting more inspections as covid pressure on health services has now eased, and it wants to have “an active role in encouraging system-wide recovery.”