Intended for healthcare professionals


Covid-19: Hospital admissions continue to climb amid record infection rates

BMJ 2022; 377 doi: (Published 04 April 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;377:o882
  1. Gareth Iacobucci
  1. The BMJ

The number of patients admitted to hospitals in England with covid-19 has more than doubled in the past month and is continuing to rise amid record infection levels, latest data show.

NHS England figures from the seven days ending 27 March show an average of 2008 covid related hospital admissions a day,1 up from 1749 the previous week and 949 in the seven days ending 27 February.

Covid related admissions driven by the omicron subvariant BA.2 are now similar to the figure of around 14 000 a week that the NHS saw during the first omicron wave, in early January this year.

Deaths are also rising again. In the seven days ending 27 March, 988 people died in UK hospitals with covid, compared with 725 in the week ending 13 March—a rise of 36%.2

The level of covid-19 infection also reached a record high in England in the most recent week recorded, as 4.9 million people—one in 13—are thought to have been infected in the week ending 26 March, showed data from the Office for National Statistics.3 The prevalence in Scotland is around one in 12, in Wales one in 14, and in Northern Ireland around one in 15.

NHS staff absences

Amid the spiralling infection rates and hospital admissions, the BMA’s deputy chair of council, David Wrigley, urged the government to reconsider its decision to end free testing for most for the population from 1 April.

“The number of people with covid is now shockingly high with the most infections we’ve ever seen, and hospitalisations and deaths are also on the rise,” he said. “Right now we’re in a situation where covid is rife across the UK, and yet testing—a simple tool to help people know if they have the infection—is no longer being made free for our patients. This means that as infection rates soar, people don’t know if they are infected and have to self-isolate, and therefore are unable to protect family members and the wider community.”

Hospital bosses are also concerned about the number of NHS staff off work because of covid-19. The number of staff in acute care trusts who were absent from work for covid related reasons rose by almost a fifth (19%) last week, from a seven day average of 23 127 in the week ending 20 March to 27 571 on 27 March.4 Staff absences because of covid have risen by 86% in three weeks since the week ending 6 March.

Miriam Deakin, NHS Providers’ director of policy and strategy, said, “These figures show the NHS is under sustained pressure, with a concerning increase in the number of NHS staff off work because of covid-19. This is a particular worry because of the knock-on effect on patient care, including efforts to tackle care backlogs and the ongoing demand for services.”

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