Only THREE hospitals are busier than they were last winter, data shows

Number 10 was today accused of running a 'brainwashing PR campaign' after MailOnline's analysis of official data showed only three NHS trusts in England are busier now than they were this time last year — despite warnings the health service would be crippled by coronavirus without the revamped three-tier lockdown system.

Michael Gove sparked fury over the weekend after he claimed that every hospital in England would be 'physically overwhelmed' by Covid-19 without the Government's new restrictions as he tried to persuade MPs and the public to support the brutal curbs. 

But NHS England figures paint an entirely different picture, with thousands more hospital beds spare this year than last winter. On average, 77,942 out of 88,903 (87.7 per cent) available beds were occupied across the country in the week ending November 22, which is the most recent snapshot. This figure does not take into account make-shift capacity at mothballed Nightingales, or the thousands of beds commandeered from the private sector.

For comparison, occupancy stood at 94.9 per cent, on average, during the seven-day spell that ended December 8 in 2019 — which is the most comparable data available for last winter — when around 91,733 out of all 96,675 available beds were full. 

Just three trusts — Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust (FT), Calderdale and Huddersfield FT, and Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh FT — are busier now than they were a year ago. 

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In Cambridge, 769 of 823 beds were full (93.4 per cent) on average in the week ending November 22, compared to 883 out of 956 (92.5 per cent) last winter. Calderdale and Huddersfield was at 93.3 per cent capacity last week, with 499 out of 535 beds filled, slightly higher than the 92 per cent last December, when 596 of 648 beds were in use. While Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust is almost at full capacity, with 98.7 per cent of its 335 beds occupied. But that figure is still only marginally higher than the 96 per cent from last year. 

Dr Karol Sikora, a consultant oncologist and professor of medicine at the University of Buckingham, said Downing Street was running a 'brainwashing PR campaign' with 'data that doesn't stack up'. He told MailOnline: 'We've gone back to how it started in March, with [the Government] claiming we need the measures to protect the NHS. The data you've shown me proves that it doesn't need protecting. It's dealing with Covid very well indeed. 

'What the data shows is that hospitals are not working at full capacity and they've still got some spare beds for Covid if necessary. The public is being misled, the data doesn't stack up. Fear and scaremongering is being used to keep people out of hospital.'

It comes as Laurence Fox sparked fury today after branding the NHS 'unfit for purpose' and saying health service staff 'aren't my saviours'. The actor said: 'If you can't deal with a 99.9 per cent survival rate virus, you aren't fit for purpose. You don't need protecting, my elderly relatives do.' 

It's true that nearly a third of English hospitals are seeing more coronavirus patients now than at the peak of the crisis in April.

But on the whole, there are still 4,000 fewer people with the disease in English hospitals compared to the darkest days in mid-April. For comparison, there were 18,970 Covid-19 patients receiving treatment on April 12 — the busiest day since the pandemic began, compared to 14,343, on average, in the week ending November 22. 

Just three trusts — Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust (FT), Calderdale and Huddersfield FT, and Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh FT — are busier now than they were a year ago

Just three trusts — Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust (FT), Calderdale and Huddersfield FT, and Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh FT — are busier now than they were a year ago

Of the trusts that are the busiest this year, only Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh is seeing more patients in total than last winter

Of the trusts that are the busiest this year, only Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh is seeing more patients in total than last winter

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An NHS spokesperson told MailOnline: 'The pandemic has changed the way the NHS delivers care, with hospitals having to split services into Covid and non-Covid zones to protect patients in a way that was not necessary less than a year ago, meaning some beds cannot be used due to enhanced Infection Prevention and Control measures.

Laurence Fox slams health service as not fit for purpose if it 'can't deal with virus with a 99.9% survival rate'

Actor Laurence Fox is currently turning his hand to a career in politics

Actor Laurence Fox is currently turning his hand to a career in politics

Laurence Fox sparked fury today after branding the NHS 'unfit for purpose' and saying health service staff 'aren't my saviours.'

The actor, who is currently trying to turn his hand to a career in politics, faced backlash after revealing he had a 'large group' over for lunch - despite England's lockdown rules banning people from meeting indoors, or outdoors in groups larger than six.

After enjoying the get-together at the weekend, Fox tweeted: 'The @nhs isn't my church and salvation. It's employees aren't my saviours.

'If you can't deal with a 99.9% survival rate virus, you aren't fit for purpose. You don't need protecting, my elderly relatives do. I also love your emergency care and will continue to pay for it. For now.' 

His message followed an earlier Tweet: 'Just had a large group over to lunch and we hugged and ate and talked and put the world to rights. It was lovely. You'll never take that away from people. Stay out. Protect your rights... If the @nhs isn't fit for purpose. Compliance is violence.'

The tweets sparked a fierce debate online. Actor Mark Dexter, who has appeared in Doctor Who and The Crown, tweeted: 'Wasn’t going to get involved with the Laurence Fox stuff, but now he’s bragging about putting my family at risk, I figure why not.

'I was once up against him for a US TV role - to play the son of James Fox’s character. As in, Laurence’s actual dad. I got it.'

Piers Morgan also hit out at Fox over his Covid-19 tweets amid England's nationwide four-week lockdown.

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'This means that trying to compare current occupancy figures with those from before the pandemic is like comparing apples and pears and does not reflect the very real pressures that hospitals are seeing due to rising numbers of patients with Covid-19, which is why it’s so important we all continue to follow the government guidelines and help stop the spread of the virus.'

MailOnline has approached the Department of Health and Social Care and the Cabinet Office for comment. 

Dr Sikora described Mr Gove's claims over the weekend as 'bizarre', adding: 'The way out of this mess is for politicians to be honest and let people make their own decisions about the epidemic. Ministers must have more trust in the public, if you trust them they'll repay your trust.'

Professor Carl Heneghan, an epidemiologist and expert in evidence-based medicine at Oxford University, said the analysis 'didn't surprise' him. He added: 'I think this is an incredibly important point, the data doesn't add up. I think its imperative that people we elect now are informed. 

'It is now clear they [ministers] should have in front of them a combined information package that combines case data with NHS data and they should be provided that weekly in digestible format so it can inform their decisions.' 

Professor Heneghan

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