Essex and Buckinghamshire declare ‘major incidents’ as NHS risks being ‘overwhelmed’

30 December 2020, 18:18 | Updated: 30 December 2020, 19:38

File photo. There are now more patients in hospital with Covid-19 than there were in the first wave.
File photo. There are now more patients in hospital with Covid-19 than there were in the first wave. Picture: Getty

By Joe Cook

Buckinghamshire has become the second county in England to declare a “major incident”, amid fears the surge in Covid-19 cases could overwhelm hospitals.

The announcement from Buckinghamshire Council comes just hours after Essex made a similar announcement.

Essex Council are also “submitting a request for military assistance... to assist with the construction of community hospitals - additional hospital capacity - supported by the armed forces and partly staffed by the armed forces,” according to local MP Bernard Jenkin.

The leader of Buckinghamshire Council, Martin Tett, warned that the county is seeing an increase in Covid-19 cases in older age groups, describing it as “of real concern”.

“Our rate in the over 60 years population is now putting our health and social care services under very severe pressure - the rates in this age group have gone up by over 60% and we think this will continue at least for the next two weeks.”

Read more: Millions more plunged into Tier 4 as hospitals see surge of Covid-19 patients

Read more: Essex declares 'major incident' as hospitals risk being overwhelmed by Covid-19

Buckinghamshire is already in Tier 4, however cases are continuing to surge, with the new variant blamed for the rise.

Mr Tett explained that in the week up to 24 December, there were 514 cases per 100,000, people in Buckinghamshire, but “current projections are expecting this to increase to closer to 800 per 100,000 by next week”.

The opening of primary and secondary schools in Milton Keynes will be delayed, but schools in other parts of Buckinghamshire will open alongside the rest of England.

Read more: Covid hotspot primary schools to remain shut with secondary return delayed

Read more: Matt Hancock: 'We will be out of this by spring' after Oxford Covid vaccine approval

Hospitals across England are under significant and growing pressure. On Monday, the number of patients being treated for Covid-19 across hospitals in England was at a record high of 20,426 - exceeding the previous peak of about 19,000 in April.

Neil Macdonald, Chief Executive Officer for Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, said some non-urgent operations and outpatient appointments would be cancelled to free up staff and beds.

However, “urgent operations, including cancer, will continue as planned” in Buckinghamshire.

Read more: UK Covid deaths jump by 981 in deadliest day since April

Read more: Covid-19: Scientists call for 'immediate' national lockdown

Nurses on the frontline in Essex have told LBC they have "grave concerns" about the situation in hospitals and are having to "battle over incorrect personal protective equipment".

Leah Sparks, who works in an Essex hospital, asked people to "please follow the advice we are being given".

Speaking to LBC, she added: "With New Year's Eve tomorrow, I urge you to stay home. The NHS is in crisis, it cannot cope with the rising number of cases of Covid while also trying to care for patients with general health conditions and illnesses."

Meanwhile, coronavirus patients had to be treated in ambulances outside a hospital in north east London on Tuesday evening, with dozens of ambulances queuing up outside Queen’s Hospital in Romford.

A number of emergency vehicles were also seen queuing near the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, as the Barts Health NHS Trust announced it had moved into a "very high pressure" phase.

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