London hospitals are facing a “tsunami” of coronavirus cases and are beginning to run out of intensive care beds, a senior hospital figure has said.
Chris Hopson, of NHS Providers, which represents hospitals, said while critical care capacity had been expanded hospitals in the capital had seen an “explosion” in demand.
A third of the UK cases have been diagnosed in the city.
Mr Hopson said high staff absence rates were creating a “wicked combination”.
“They are struggling with two things.
“The first is the explosion of demand they are seeing in seriously ill patients.
“They talk about wave after wave after wave – the word that’s often used to me is a continuous tsunami.
“We are now seeing 30%, 40% and indeed in some places 50% sickness rates as staff catch the virus or are in vulnerable groups or have to self-isolate.
Mr Hopson said that, while extra capacity was being brought in – including 4,000 beds at the ExCel centre in London’s Docklands – hospital chief executives were concerned it would be used up “very quickly”.
It comes as the NHS has taken unprecedented steps to prepare for the peak, which experts say is just two or three weeks away.
Hospitals have cleared the decks
From next month all routine operations, such as hip and knee replacements, are being cancelled for three months.
There is also a drive to get as many patients discharged from hospital who do not need to be there.
These two measures could free up 30,000 of the 100,000 hospital beds in England alone.