Rate of hospital admissions in England passes winter peak with older people driving rise

The rate of Covid-19 hospital admissions in England has passed the peak reached at the start of this year and is now the highest since January 2021, new figures show.

Admissions among older people are continuing to drive the increase, with all age groups over 65 recording rates last seen during the second wave of the virus in the early weeks of last year.

By contrast, rates for children and young adults are still well below the level reached at the beginning of 2022.

The overall Covid-19 hospital admission rate for England stood at 20.5 per 100,000 people in the week ending April 3, according to the UK Health Surveillance Agency.

It is the fifth successive weekly increase and means total admissions are now running at a higher rate than at the peak of the original Omicron wave at the start of January this year (19.9). The rate is still some way below the all-time high of 36 per 100,000 in the first week of January 2021.

The steady increase in recent weeks, which is being driven by the Omicron BA.2 variant, coincides with rising NHS staff absences as many hospitals struggle to cope.

Latest figures published on Thursday show hospitals in England are dealing with the highest number of staff off sick due to the virus for 10 weeks – an average of 28,500 staff each day – with 94 per cent of beds occupied.

Admissions are highest among people aged 85 and over, where the rate currently stands at 204 per 100,000, up week-on-week from 191.9.

The number of people in hospital seriously ill with Covid-19 remains low, however. Some 361 patients are currently in mechanical ventilator beds in UK hospitals, according to the latest figures from the Government – ​​some way from the level reached last November (1,036) and far below the total at the start of 2021 (4,077).

Separate data published on Thursday shows that nearly three in five patients in England (58 per cent) who have tested positive for Covid-19 are being treated primarily for something else – the highest level so far.

The proportion of patients who are in hospital “with” coronavirus rather than “for” it has been rising steadily since the end of last year, when the figure stood at around 25 per cent.

However, all patients who test positive for Covid-19 have to be treated separately from other people in hospital, adding to pressures faced by NHS staff who are already trying to clear a record backlog of routine treatment. Some 20,409 patients are in UK hospitals with coronavirus.

Miriam Deakin, director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, said: “We are concerned about the significant strain NHS trusts are under, particularly in urgent and emergency care.

“The reports of warnings issued on Wednesday by hospitals and ambulance services highlight just how busy trusts across the country continue to be, despite moving out of the traditionally busier winter months.

“Ambulance services are right at the sharp end, with handover delays of over 60 minutes increasing this week. This means longer ambulance queues outside A&E departments, and vehicles can’t get back out into the community swiftly.

“Meanwhile, the length of time people stay in hospital has also increased across seven, 14 and 21 day metrics, and are now remarkably higher than the same time last year.

“Delayed discharges also continue to be a real concern, indicating real pressure across the whole health and care system. When you combine all of these factors, it adds up to a picture of the NHS running hot.”

NHS medical director Stephen Powis said: “Our frontline staff are working closely together with social care providers to ensure patients leave hospital as soon as they are fit to do so, and hospitals have increased bed numbers and created extra capacity in line with increasing pressure.

“Despite the sustained demand, staff are continuing to focus on addressing the Covid-19 backlogs and roll out the NHS spring booster programme, so please come forward for your Covid jabs, and if you need NHS help, use the NHS 111 online service. ”

More than one million people have received a spring booster in just over two weeks since the latest phase of the NHS Covid-19 vaccination program kicked off, officials said on Thursday.

Meanwhile, separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics reveal more than 1.7 million people say they are suffering from long Covid – a rise of 200,000 in a month.

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