‘Major incident’ at London hospitals as new pandemic peak looms

North Middlesex Hospital
North Middlesex University Hospital is now treating more Covid-19 patients than at any point in the pandemic

Report by Joe Talora, Local Democracy Reporter, and James Cracknell

A ‘major incident’ has been declared in London as hospitals face being overwhelmed by the continued spread of Covid-19.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who formally chairs the London Resilience Forum, made the decision to declare a major incident following discussions with NHS London, local authorities and Public Health England.

A major incident can be declared when a situation is deemed “beyond the scope of business as usual” and can be due to “serious harm, damage, disruption or risk to human life”.

Sadiq Khan said: “The situation in London is now critical with the spread of the virus out of control.

“The number of cases in London has increased rapidly with more than a third more patients being treated in our hospitals now compared to the peak of the pandemic last April.”

At North Middlesex University Hospital in Edmonton, the most recent figures put the number of Covid-19 patients this week at 303, which is 13% higher than the peak last year of 267, recorded on 5th April 2020.

Enfield borough continues to have one of the highest case rates in the country, having been in the top ten worst-affected places in the UK for most of the last month. The most recent government data for the last week put the case rate at 1253.5 per 100,000 people, the seventh highest in the country.

Maria Kane, the hospital trust’s chief executive, said: “Like all hospitals in London and elsewhere, there is currently huge pressure on services at North Mid.

“We have a robust plan which sees us working very closely with partners across the capital to help patients get the care they need as quickly as possible. This partnership working helps patients get back home quicker when fit to leave, which is better for them, and allows us to treat and admit new patients who need hospital care.

“We are incredibly grateful to our staff who continue to deliver the very best care possible in these circumstances.”

One in 30 Londoners is now believed to be infected with Covid-19 and there have been 477 Covid-related deaths in London hospitals in the last three days alone.

Londoners are once again being urged to stay at home and not to call an ambulance unless it is an emergency, with London Ambulance Service taking up to 8,000 emergency calls a day.

Sadiq Khan added: “It’s vital that people stay at home except where it’s necessary to leave, wash your hands regularly and follow other essential safety measures to help health and care services and our communities in London stay as safe as possible.”

“Our heroic doctors, nurses and NHS staff are doing an amazing job, but with cases rising so rapidly, our hospitals are at risk of being overwhelmed. The stark reality is that we will run out of beds for patients in the next couple of weeks unless the spread of the virus slows down drastically.

“We are declaring a major incident because the threat this virus poses to our city is at crisis point. If we do not take immediate action now, our NHS could be overwhelmed and more people will die.”

Major incidents have previously been declared in the capital for the Grenfell Tower fire, the Croydon tram crash, and terror attacks at Westminster Bridge.