With the NHS stretched to the limit by Covid, here is the grim truth of what is unfolding in Britain’s hospitals

England currently has more than 30,000 patients in hospital with Covid-19. This is 62% more than at the first peak in April. Chris Whitty wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that the NHS faces the “most dangerous situation in living memory” and hospitals could be overwhelmed within two weeks. The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, declared a Covid emergency in the capital, warning that its NHS was already overwhelmed. Each new day of record admissions turns the screw on frontline staff. The problem is that while the NHS, government ministers and scientists are all sounding the alarm, there is also a reluctance to spell out exactly what this means.

This is an account of what it truly means for a hospital to be “overwhelmed”. It is gleaned from years of working with intensive care clinicians and hearing from doctors across the country. Much of this is happening already, but we have not yet seen the worst.

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