One of England's biggest hospitals has been forced to cancel all scheduled operations for 48 hours because it has ran out of beds, in another sign that the third wave of Covid is beginning to pile pressure on the NHS.
All spaces in Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital's intensive care unit were taken up, forcing it to call off dozens of routine operations such as liver transplants and cancer surgery yesterday and today.
One of the trust's bosses blamed the move on a 'flood' of patients with the coronavirus, with hospitalisations now starting to spiral across the country following a ferocious surge in cases.
Analysts tracking the health service's battle with the virus say the current figures are already outpacing some of SAGE's worst-case scenarios, which warned of more than 2,000 infected patients being admitted for treatment every day later this summer.
It comes as South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust - which is dealing with one of the highest infection rates in the country - begged staff to cancel holidays so they could cope with demand.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
The trust offered staff a £250 bonus if they could cram a week's worth of overtime over the next six weeks.
Meanwhile, MailOnline analysis today revealed four-fifths of NHS hospitals in England are seeing a spike in Covid patients being admitted.
The number of infected patients needing medical treatment soared by four-fold in some of the worst-hit parts of the country, while hospitalisations have doubled in 29 of the 123 NHS trusts across England that are capable of treating the infected.
The worrying trend comes ahead of Freedom Day on Monday, which will see most remaining legal restrictions - like social distancing and wearing face masks - come to an end in England.
Data released by NHS England earlier this month revealed the health service was already facing record demand at the end of May, with waiting lists for routine care reaching 5.3million and A&E units seeing their busiest ever month.
Experts say any up-tick in admissions will jeopardise patient care, forcing hospitals to make space to treat the infected. Tens of thousands of routine operations were cancelled in the first and second waves.
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Latest Government figures show 717 patients were admitted to hospital on Monday, a week-on-week rise of 43.4 per cent. Daily cases hit 51,870 - a jump up of 35 per cent compared to seven days earlier - and 49 people died within 28 days of testing positive. Meanwhile, 46.1million people have now had one jab and 35.5million are fully immunised
Health bosses in Sunderland have asked staff to postpone holidays as the trust came 'under extreme pressure' due to a surge in coronavirus cases.
Staff at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust - dealing with one of the highest infection rates in the country - are seeing hospital cases doubling week-on-week.
In an internal note to staff earlier this week, bosses said there were 80 Covid-19 patients receiving hospital treatment compared with just two exactly a month before.
The message started: 'The Trust is currently under extreme pressure due to a surge in Covid-19 cases.
'Many people are seriously ill and receiving intensive care support.'
The surge in cases and rapid spread in the community meant the trust has had to ask for staff's help, the memo said.
It asked for staff to work additional shifts, with a £250 bonus for staff who could work an extra week of overtime spread over the next six weeks.
They were told they would need to be flexible and might need to work outside their normal area.
And they were asked: 'If you are due to take annual leave but feel able to postpone this to help support the Trust's Covid-19 response, please talk to your line manager ASAP.'
The lack of beds in Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham's intensive care unit forced it to cancel all operations for two days because some patients may require them after surgery.
It comes after Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospital sent a message to staff yesterday, warning some treatment was being cancelled so the hospital had capacity for urgent care. Leeds Teaching Hospitals also cancelled operations earlier this month.
Ian Sharp, deputy medical director at the University Hospitals Birmingham, told the Independent: 'The pressure at the front door, whether its people who should be able to access care elsewhere, or people with Covid, or people with other acute issues, flooding our front door makes it very difficult to function effectively.
'We don't wish to cancel any operations, certainly not on the day of surgery or the day before, and especially not cancer operations, but the reality is that we have to sometimes reconsider cases that require ITU or a certain high level of post-operative care.'
NHS staff in Sunderland were asked to postpone holidays as the trust came 'under extreme pressure' due to a surge in coronavirus hospitalisation, which are doubling every week.
In an internal note to staff earlier