At least 5,000 Covid 'patients' in England are NOT primarily in hospital for virus, data suggests and nearly HALF of newly occupied beds in most recent week were taken up by 'incidental' cases

  • So-called 'incidental' cases made up third of coronavirus inpatient numbers across England on December 28
  • Latest data shows as of Wednesday, there were 15,600 beds occupied by Covid sufferers in English hospitals
  • Suggests at least 5,000 being counted as coronavirus patients are not suffering seriously with disease

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As many as 5,000 Covid patients in hospital in England may have been admitted for other ailments, NHS figures suggest as the super-mild Omicron variant continues to engulf the country.

Latest data shows so-called 'incidental' cases — those who test positive after admission for something else, such as a broken leg — made up a third of coronavirus inpatient numbers on December 28.

At that point, there were just 8,300 Covid sufferers being treated in England's hospitals, 2,750 of which were not primarily receiving care for the virus (33 per cent). 

More up-to-date statistics from the Government's Covid dashboard show that, as of Wednesday, there were 15,600 beds occupied by people infected with the virus. 

It is not clear exactly how many of the current patients are there primarily for Covid because the NHS's breakdown is backdated and only covers up to December 28. 

But, if incidental cases still account for a third of cases, it means at least 5,000 who are being counted as coronavirus patients are not suffering seriously with the disease.

Experts say there is reason to believe the share of incidentals will continue to rise as Omicron pushes England's infection rates to record numbers, with one in 15 people estimated to have had Covid on New Year's Eve.

In South Africa — ground zero of the Omicron outbreak — up to 60 per cent of Covid patients were not admitted primarily for the virus at the height of the crisis there. 

Separate analysis of NHS data shows 45 per cent of beds newly occupied by Covid patients in the final week of December were patients not primarily ill with the virus. 

It comes as two dozen NHS trusts declared 'critical incidents' amid staggering staffing shortages caused by sky-high infection rates, indicating that they may be unable to provide vital care in the coming weeks. 

One in ten workers are off and 183,000 Brits are being sent into isolation every day on average, prompting calls for the isolation period to be cut to five days. 

The proportion of beds occupied by patients who are primarily in hospital 'for' Covid, versus those who were admitted for something else and tested positive later, referred to as 'with' Covid. The data looks at (55 per cent). That suggests 45 per cent were not seriously ill with Covid, yet were counted in the official statistics. In the South East of England 66 per cent were primarily non-Covid, in the East of England it was 51 per cent and in London it was 48 per cent. Critics argue, however, that the figures are unreliable because they don't include discharges, which could skew the data. But they add to the growing trend

The proportion of beds occupied by patients who are primarily in hospital 'for' Covid, versus those who were admitted for something else and tested positive later, referred to as 'with' Covid. The data covers the week between December 21 and December 28, when were around 2,100 additional beds occupied by the virus in England — of which 1,150 were primary illness (55 per cent). That suggests 45 per cent were not seriously ill with Covid, yet were counted in the official statistics. In the South East of England 66 per cent were primarily non-Covid, in the East of England it was 51 per cent and in London it was 48 per cent. Critics argue, however, that the figures are unreliable because they don't include discharges, which could skew the data. But they add to the growing trend 

Latest figures show that hospitals in England have actually had fewer beds occupied this winter than they did pre-Covid. 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 in 2019, 2018 and 2017

Latest figures show that hospitals in England have actually had fewer beds occupied this winter than they did pre-Covid. 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 in 2019, 2018 and 2017

While Covid hospitalisations are rising quickly in England, they are still half of the level of last January and far fewer patients are needing ventilation

While Covid hospitalisations are rising quickly in England, they are still half of the level of last January and far fewer patients are needing ventilation

A total of 24 out of 137 NHS Trusts in England have declared critical incidents — or 17.5 per cent — due to soaring staff absences amid the Omicron outbreak. Above are the trusts that have publicly announced they have declared these incidents to help them manage winter pressures

A total of 24 out of 137 NHS Trusts in England have declared critical incidents — or 17.5 per cent — due to soaring staff absences amid the Omicron outbreak. Above are the trusts that have publicly announced they have declared these incidents to help them manage winter pressures

The number of daily positive Covid tests recorded in England has exceeded 100,000 for nearly two weeks. However, the number of patients in hospital with the virus is a fraction of the level seen last winter, while deaths remain flat

The number of daily positive Covid tests recorded in England has exceeded 100,000 for two weeks. However, the number of patients in hospital with the virus is a fraction of the level seen last winter, while deaths remain flat

The proportion of Covid beds in the NHS occupied by patients primarily being treated for the virus is decreasing and has fallen sharply since mid-December. The NHS' breakdown is backdated and currently only covers up to December 28.

The proportion of Covid beds in the NHS occupied by patients primarily being treated for the virus is decreasing and has fallen sharply since mid-December. The NHS' breakdown is backdated and currently only covers up to December 28.

In England a third of of total Covid patients were incidental on that date. While the number of patients primarily ill with Covid is increasing the proportion of incidental patients is rising

In England a third of of total Covid patients were incidental on that date. While the number of patients primarily ill with Covid is increasing the proportion of incidental patients is rising

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, an eminent statistician at Cambridge University, told MailOnline that the rise in incidental cases 'reflected the huge number of infections' at the moment.

He added: 'The rise in the share of incidental Covid patients could be largely due to the increased rate of people catching Covid while in hospital.

'But we have good evidence from other sources that, compared to Delta, Omicron tends to produce milder disease - although it can still affect some people badly.' 

Now 24 NHS trusts declare critical incidents as patient waiting list hits 6MILLION 

Twenty-four NHS trusts have now declared 'critical incidents' due to staff shortages and rising Covid admissions, it was revealed today — but ministers have downplayed the warnings and insisted it is not unusual for hospitals to face winter crises amid growing hopes that the Omicron outbreak is close to peaking.

Grant Shapps announced another four sites hit the panic button overnight, meaning roughly a fifth of England's 137 trusts have signalled they may not be able to deliver critical care in the coming weeks.

But the Transport Secretary poured cold water over the alerts, saying: 'It's not entirely unusual for hospitals to go critical over the winter.' He accepted, however, that there are 'very real pressures'.

Officials have yet to release the full list of affected trusts, however those which have raised the alarm include NHS sites in Bristol, Plymouth and Blackpool. Health bosses have already been forced to cancel non-urgent operations and have asked heart attack victims to make their own way to hospital.

Trusts declaring critical incidents — the highest level of alert — can ask staff on leave or on rest days to return to wards, and enables them to receive help from nearby hospitals.

It comes as MPs warned the patient waiting list — which already stands on the brink of 6million in England alone — could double in three years without urgent action to get more doctors and nurses on wards, saying efforts to clear the backlog are being thrown off course by the self-isolation fuelled staffing crisis. Even NHS bosses have called for No10 to look at slashing the quarantine period to five days, like the US.

Despite NHS bosses warning of escalating pressures on wards with up to one in 10 medics thought to be off sick, Boris Johnson last night all but ruled out adopting another lockdown and held out the prospect of a return 'closer to normality' within weeks.

The Prime Minister has held his nerve in the face of demands to introduce tougher restrictions to thwart Omicron, unlike his counterparts in Scotland and Wales, and imposed no new curbs over the holidays, winning him praise from Tory MPs.

A raft of data has suggested that the outbreak in London — the first region to fall victim to the ultra-transmissible strain — may have already peaked. Up to one in 10 people living in the capital were infected on New Year's Eve, statisticians estimate.

Cases are still going up in over-60s in London but experts believe the trend will reverse in the next week. And the number of daily infections spotted across the UK as a whole jumped just 6 per cent in a week yesterday.

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As of yesterday, official data shows there were 15,659 Covid hospital patients in English hospitals, up 51 per cent in a week. 

But that is still fewer than half of the peak last January when there were 33,000 inpatients and the rise of incidental cases has given ministers confidence that no extra restrictions are needed. 

The NHS is due to publish an updated breakdown of primary and incidental inpatient numbers tomorrow, but it will only cover up to January 3.

Experts and Tory MPs have called on the Government to differentiate between primary and secondary Covid patients in the daily figures for transparency.

Cambridge epidemiologist Dr Raghib Ali has previously told MailOnline that it would 'not only helpful but in many ways essential' in assessing the true pressure on the NHS.

Now that there is a growing acceptance that Omicron is unlikely to lead to a wave of severe illness like previous peaks, NHS leaders say isolation and staff absences are the central crises they face.

Meanwhile, separate analysis of the NHS figures suggests that nearly half of patients who contributed to the surge in Covid infections in hospital before the new year were admitted for other reasons.

Between December 21 and December 28, there were around 2,100 additional beds occupied by the virus in England — of which 1,150 were for primary illness (55 per cent).

That suggests 45 per cent were not seriously ill with Covid, yet were counted in the official statistics.

In the South East of England 66 per cent were primarily non-Covid, in the East of England it was 51 per cent and in London it was 48 per cent.

Critics argue, however, that the figures are unreliable because they don't include discharges, which could skew the data. But they add to the growing trend.  

Meanwhile, 24 trusts in England have now declared 'critical incidents' due to staff shortages and rising Covid admissions caused by Omicron.

It means roughly a fifth of England's 137 trusts have signalled they may not be able to deliver critical care in the coming weeks.

Officials have yet to release the full list of affected trusts, however those which have raised the alarm include NHS sites in Bristol, Plymouth and Blackpool.

Health bosses have already been forced to cancel non-urgent operations and have asked heart attack victims to make their own way to hospital.

Trusts declaring critical incidents — the highest level of alert — can ask staff on leave or on rest days to return to wards, and enables them to receive help from nearby hospitals.

But ministers have downplayed the warnings and insisted it is not unusual for hospitals to face winter crises amid growing hopes that the Omicron outbreak is close to peaking.

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, accepted that there are 'very real pressures' but added: 'It's not entirely unusual for hospitals to go critical over the winter.'  

Latest figures show that  hospitals in England have actually had fewer beds occupied this winter than they did pre-Covid.

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.

The NHS also has more spare capacity in intensive care now than it did pre-pandemic and could open even more beds if it needed to.

The number of Covid patients in critical care in England is half the level of previous peaks. There were an average of 4,079 adult critical care beds open each day in the week to December 26, but only 75 per cent of them – 3,058 – were occupied.

Compare that to an occupancy rate of 79.6 per cent in the week to December 26, 2019, when there was an average of 3,647 adult critical care beds open and 2,903 occupied.

On January 24 last year there were 3,736 Covid patients in intensive care in England – the highest of the pandemic – with 6,270 critical beds open for any illness.

NHS waiting lists 'are set to double by 2025' as drive to clear backlog is thrown off course

Efforts to clear record NHS waiting lists risk being thrown off course by a staff shortage fuelled by Covid isolation rules, MPs have warned.

The pandemic has had a 'catastrophic impact' on patients with almost 6million now waiting for care in England.

But the Commons health and social care committee said lists could double by 2025 without urgent action to get more doctors and nurses on wards.

In a report it highlights 93,000 vacancies in the health service, with rules forcing staff to self-isolate for at least a week if they test positive for Covid adding to the shortfall.

The committee said NHS staff are under pressure from multiple angles as they deal with routine care, Covid and soaring demand for ambulances and A&E.

MPs fear workers will quit unless they see 'light at the end of the tunnel' in the form of more recruits.

They say tackling the wider backlog caused by the pandemic is a major and 'unquantifiable' challenge as it includes all those who have yet to come forward for care.

Committee members want a broad national recovery plan embracing emergency, community and social care, as well as mental health and GPs.

The report said: 'Of the 5.8million patients waiting to start treatment in September 2021, 300,000 have been waiting more than a year and 12,000 more than two years.'

But it cautions: 'With Covid-related measures such as social distancing and staff self-isolation constraining NHS capacity, we heard it is extremely difficult to accurately quantify the true scale of the backlog.' 

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At least 5,000 Covid patients in England are NOT primarily in hospital for virus: analysis

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