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NHS meltdown could end Covid-only wards

Researchers say some 5,800 people in England may have died unnecessarily, as NHS underfunding leaves paramedics missing vital targets
Issue 2800
An NHS east of England ambulance

NHS bosses in the east of England have hospitals to consider mixed wards as ambulances queue for hours (Picture: Chris Sampson)

NHS hospitals could start mixing Covid and non-Covid patients on shared wards in the coming weeks—despite the danger of cross infection

Such a move would place extremely vulnerable sick people without Covid in grave danger of contracting the disease. And that would likely lead to patients dying that might otherwise have been expected to pull through.

But with emergency care in meltdown and ambulances queuing for hours, NHS bosses in the east of England have told hospitals to consider the change.

Some 5,800 people in England may have died unnecessarily between November and February after long waits for ambulances. That’s according to researchers using data from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine.

Paramedics are supposed to arrive at category 1 emergency calls for people with cardiac or respiratory arrest within seven minutes. For those with suspected strokes and heart attack, it should be within 18 minutes. These targets are now routinely missed—sometimes by hours. That is surely a scandal that health secretary Sajid Javid ought to pay for with his job.

Yet instead of demanding a huge injection of cash and resources to stem the crisis, NHS bosses’ plans simply try to rebalance the risk. Mixing patients with Covid with those free of the disease may increase hospital capacity, but at a terrible cost to patients and staff.

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