Thousands of coronavirus patients will be treated in their own homes to help the health service cope with a rapid rise in Omicron cases.
Plans have reportedly been passed to expand the use of ‘virtual wards’ by treating 15 per cent of Covid patients at home, with the use of devices to remotely monitor their oxygen levels.
It is hoped that keeping Covid patients out of hospital will free up beds in the stretched NHS and could also allow more routine operations to go ahead.
According to The Sunday Times, the health service also hopes to discharge up to 10,000 hospital patients before the start of January.
Professor Stephen Powis, the medical director of NHS England, said the organisation was now on a ‘war footing’.
The new plans will also include the use of ‘care hotels’, which will see the NHS paying for patients to be looked after by live-in carers.
Three hotels in the south of England are already operational, with one in Plymouth looking after 30 patients.
Professor Powis told the Sunday Times that patients on virtual wards will be given oximeters to fit on their finger.
Thousands of coronavirus patients will be treated in their own homes to help the health service cope with a rapid rise in Omicron cases, the medical director of NHS England, Professor Stephen Powis, has said
He said this would allow patients to receive ‘the same care they would in hospital but from the comfort of their own home.
‘This is better for patients, it is better for their families and it is better for the NHS, as it limited the spread of the virus, which we know at the minute is rising exponentially.’
He added: ‘This approach has been shown to provide safe care without the need for hospital admissions.’
The virtual wards will be used for patients who arrive at hospital or call an ambulance and, while found to be in need of care, do not have to be admitted to a ward.
Professor Powis added that the NHS plans to use 20,000 reservists made of former doctors, nurses and non-clinical staff to help shore up vital services.
Eight pilot schemes have already been run across England, with 17,000 reservists recruited and a further 3,000 on the way.
The virtual wards will be used for patients who arrive at hospital or call an ambulance and, while found to be in need of care, do not have to be admitted to a ward
Health Secretary Sajid Javid told Sky News on Sunday that it is unvaccinated people who are ‘taking up hospital beds’ that could be used for someone else.
He said 10 per cent of the population – more than five million people – have still not received their jabs.
Around nine out of 10 of those needing the most care in hospital are unvaccinated, Mr Javid said.
‘I just cannot emphasise enough the impact that they are having on the rest of society,’ he added.
‘They must really think about the damage they are doing to society by… they take up hospital beds that could have been used for someone with maybe a heart problem, or maybe someone who is waiting for elective surgery.
‘But instead of protecting themselves and protecting the community they choose not to get vaccinated.
‘They are really having a damaging impact and I just can’t stress enough, please do come forward and get vaccinated.’
Mr Javid was speaking after Mr Javid hinted in an article for the Sunday Telegraph that new restrictions to control the spread of coronavirus may be on the way.
He said that in his former career as a trader the ‘most important decisions’ were taken when data was ‘early and patchy, but a trend was emerging’.
‘Once that trend leads to a clear outcome, it may be too late to react to it,’ he wrote.
Yesterday, the number of people in hospital nationally with the Omicron variant rose by 20 to 85 and cases increased by 69 per cent in a day with another 10,059 infections recorded.
Overall, Britain recorded another 90,418 Covid cases – a 67 per cent rise on the figure seven days ago.
Deaths from Covid-19 fell by five per cent on last week, to 125 from last Saturday’s 132, although they had risen by 21 compared to Friday’s figure.
A further 900 people were admitted to hospital with Covid, not much higher than the 865 daily average for the past seven days.
There were also 125 Covid-related deaths, just above the 112 daily average for the past week. Overall, there have been seven Omicron-related deaths.
In the first Covid wave in Spring 2020, along with last winter, there were large ‘excess death’ peaks but this has not been the case so far this year.