Hospitals declare black alerts as £22bn test and trace system strains to cope before expected surge

Daily news Health and Education

Under pressure NHS hospitals have declared black alerts and cancelled operations due to rising Covid cases.

NHS England said waiting lists have also reached another new record high with 5.3 million patients waiting for an operation – the highest since records began in 2007 – as 200,000 people were added to the list in May.

The figures were released as two more Scottish hospitals declared ‘code black’ alerts after capacity was reached with rising numbers of patients combined with growing numbers of staff needing to isolate.

Resultingly, more procedures and treatments have been postponed and NHS Grampian medical director, professor Nick Fluck, said: “Choosing to cancel procedures or appointments is never a decision we take lightly; however it is our only option if we are to relieve some of the pressure and allow staff to concentrate on the most urgent and emergency care.

“I know it is distressing for people to have procedures or appointments postponed, sometimes at very short notice. I apologise to anyone who has been affected by this.”

9% of population on NHS waiting list

“The numbers waiting are huge, they’re increasing not decreasing and they mark a real problem for the NHS in the coming years,” writes ITV’s health editor, Emily Morgan.

Rising Covid cases means “things are not looking good” said Morgan as NHS chiefs warned rising numbers of Covid patients in hospitals will add to the 5.3m waiting list – which already represents “around 9% of the population”.

The Independent reports A&E departments dealt with 2.16 million people in June – compared to 1.4 million under lockdown in June 2020 and 2.11 million in June 2019.

Test and trace system is already straining

While the government announced a further easing of travel restrictions – where double-vaccinated travellers will not have to isolate when returning from amber list countries – a professor warned the £22 billion test and trace system could be overwhelmed after restrictions are lifted on July 19.

The Guardian reports “signs of the system already straining” ahead of an expected surge where “at least 660,000 gold standard PCR tests are likely to be needed each day to discover 100,000 daily infections this summer. “

That is the number “forewarned” by the health secretary Sajid Javid and professor of biostatistics Jon Deeks said detecting that many infections will require testing at three times the current rate in the UK. A director of public health warned that tests may be rationed where contact tracing is required, focusing on poorer, overcrowded areas where people are more likely to be employed in face-to-face jobs.

UK passes 5m coronavirus cases and records 152,725 deaths

The latest figures from NHS test and trace “shows 135,685 positive cases of Covid-19 were recorded between 24 June to 30 June, which is an increase of 71% on the previous week.”

Conversely, the proportion of in-person test results returned in 24 hours dropped from 84% to 77% while the number of positive tests spiked 71%.

Figures for July 8 show the UK passed five million coronavirus cases with 32,551 added to take the total to 5,022,893. There were 35 deaths in the latest 24 hour period bringing the total number of deaths within 28 days of a positive test to 128,336. Government figures show the rising total with Covid-19 on the death certificate is now 152,725 people.

The number of Covid patients admitted to hospital in the latest 24 hours was 456, taking the UK’s total to 475,060.

Currently there are 2,636 patients being treated in NHS hospitals, 417 of which are on ventilation.

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