COVID NHS February Update – What is really causing the drop in hospitalisations?

From 18th January to 11th February the amount of beds taken up by COVID patients dropped by 14,353 (NHS England). The drop in beds from discharges between from 18th Jan to 3rd Feb was 39,496 (we don’t have the data for the next 8 days yet), during that same period the amount of admissions/diagnoses was at 48,367.

The difference here is 8,871 and as we don’t have the data covering from 3rd February to the 11th February it is likely that the new admissions and diagnoses of inpatient numbers will drop and at the same time discharges will continue to be at the same rate, therefore, the discharges are going to take over the amount of new admissions/diagnoses.

As you can see its difficult to tell the drop of 14,000+, one clear indication is that during this time there have been hundreds of deaths so there is no doubt that this has contributed to the drop in numbers. If the discharges continue at the same rate as they have at the start of February we are looking potentially at an increase of 16,000+ discharges. Now let’s break down some of the numbers.

In January the total of beds taken up increased by 102,316 with 67,766 discharges – this would indicate an increase of 34,550 beds taken up making it the worst month we have had during the COVID outbreak. Some factors to consider, it is flu season, the COVID strain is more contagious that the previous one and appears to be more deadly. However, the death toll continues to increase amongst those with pre-existing conditions with diabetics making up 26% of deaths and if we take the numbers going back 23 weeks those aged between 0-19 make up 0.03% of the increase in deaths. For January itself when it comes to admissions and diagnoses, the admissions make up one third with diagnoses making up the other two thirds. (Remember that according to the NHS England FOI request I made those in hospital for non-covid reasons will become a COVID bed patient if they test positive regardless of whether they show symptoms or not).

When it comes to vaccines again the data is incomplete as we don’t have the daily figures from the 20th December to the 9th January. Going beyond the 9th January the numbers are in the millions and we have to consider the 3 week period. The figures are split between those who have had only 1 dose and those who have had the 2nd dose. For now we will concentrate on those who have taken the 1st dose as it will provide some form of protection against the virus.

They expect that some will still test positive but not experience either the symptoms or suffer the worst effects of COVID. As it stands on the 13th February the number of those vaccinated with the 1st dose is at 12,675,663, we do know that by the 7th February those who are 70+ age group a total of 6,501,978 were given the 1st dose. We will need to wait till early March, perhaps a little further on to see if there has been any impact. Bear in mind that numbers are expected to drop regardless so should we see significant drops it could be that the vaccine is having an effect.

This is what we know after coming out of the worst month of cases/deaths with COVID…;

  1. Bed occupation in our NHS England Hospitals was at 26.36%, beating April number of 22.9%
  2. Going into February, with the data we have, the current bed occupation percentage of COVID patients stands at 21.87%, the number was at 30% on the 18th January – the number is expected to drop even more later this month.
  3. On 1st February the increase of patients (COVID/NON-COVID) went up by 4,199 with COVID taking up only 427, we have to assume that since beds were being freed up after the discharges that we continue to see non-COVID patients now being able to get treatment/surgery they need.
  4. As of the 13th Feburary the vaccination number for the 1st dose is 12,675,663, the number will be a lot higher going into March and that means we expect not only cases to go down but deaths to drop as the elderly were targeted first when it came to being vaccinated.
  5. Before January for 3 months running (Oct to Dec) we saw that up to three quarters of beds being occupied with COVID patients were in fact non-COVID inpatients. The number for January for diagnoses dropped to two thirds from the previous months.
  6. Diabetics, again, make up the biggest increases amongst those who died from COVID (within 28 days of a positive test) and those with pre-existing conditions are of course at the highest risk.

Please see the stream I did on Sunday below.