NHS England has announced that, as from midnight tonight (4th November), it will be moving into its highest alert level.
The last time NHS England entered this high alert level, was at the beginning of March when hospitals around the country were overwhelmed with critically ill COIVD patients.
Sir Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, said that the move to level four was in response to the “serious situation ahead” as more and more ICU beds are expected to become full of seriously ill COVID patients.
The NHS has four levels of ‘readiness’ which are used to alert employees and resources to national and local demands.
Entering level four means that NHS England will now take over the coordination of the health service’s response to the pandemic.
NHS England will, however, still be working with local commissioners as they prepare themselves for what is believed will be an influx of patients.
Last time level four was needed was at the start of the pandemic before it was moved back down to level 3 in July.
Sir Simon gave a stark warning when he said that there had been a “very substantial” increase in “desperately sick patients in hospitals” during October.
Sir Stevens added:
“In many parts of the country, we’re now seeing more coronavirus inpatients in hospital and in intensive care than we saw in the first peak in April.
“The facts are clear; we are once again facing a serious situation.
“This is not a situation that anybody wanted to find themselves in, the worst pandemic in a century, but the fact is that the NHS is here.
“The public can help us help you so our fantastic staff – our nurses, our doctors, our paramedics – can get on with looking after you and your family there when you need it.
“In anticipation of that, we’re also gearing the NHS up to be ready to make a start on administering COVID vaccines before Christmas, if they become available.
“We reached an agreement with GPs to ensure they will be doing that, and we’ll be writing to GP practices this week to get them geared up to start by Christmas if the vaccine becomes available”.
The news comes just under two days after the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) declared a ‘major incident’ after becoming overwhelmed with emergency calls.
NWAS covers many of the areas which have seen an exponential rise in the number of COVID cases over the past few months.
Speaking about the need to declare a major incident, an NWAS spokesperson said at the time:
“Due to the high volume of emergency calls into our service, the trust declared a major incident.
“The major incident was managed in accordance with our usual protocols.
“Traditionally, Mondays are often a very busy day for us, and we are reviewing the reasons behind the sudden and unexpected surge in demand we experienced.
“The type of emergencies we have received are varied with COVID accounting for approximately 15% of the activity.
“We put in place additional support throughout the North West and will continue to closely monitor the situation.
“We want to assure the public that we are prioritising our calls and you should call 999 if you or the patient is in a life-threatening condition.
“If this is the case, we will endeavour to respond to you as quickly as possible.
“For conditions which are not life-threatening, it is likely that we will direct you to alternative care, please help us by first checking your symptoms via 111 online.
“Please continue to help us by not calling us to check where the ambulance is as we need those lines to be free for those in a life-threatening condition.
“However, if you feel you no longer need an ambulance, please let us know.
NWAS stood down from their major incident several hours after declaring it after the service started to experience demand that was more in line with their typical levels.
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