Figures reveal significantly rising numbers of people now in hospitals as the new strain of coronavirus moves into the region.
NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens warned that doctors and nurses are “back in the eye of the storm”.
Figures from NHS England show there were 20,426 patients in NHS hospitals in England as of 8am on Monday, compared with the 18,974 patients recorded on April 12 – the peak of the first wave.
The University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust, which runs County Hospital in Stafford and Royal Stoke University Hospital, was treating 326 patients on December 22, compared to 160 at the peak of the first wave on April 24. It said it was having to “think differently” and change the way it works in order to cope.
Other hospitals are showing a similar trend. A total of 849 Covid patients are filling beds across our region, according to figures from December 22. That compares to just 19 back on August 22.
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Sir Simon said: “Many of us have lost family, friends, colleagues and – at a time of year when we would normally be celebrating – a lot of people are understandably feeling anxious, frustrated and tired. And now, again, we are back in the eye of the storm with a second wave of coronavirus sweeping Europe and, indeed, this country.”
Council leaders in the Black Country today warned people to prepare for going into Tier 4 as a review was set to be announced on Wednesday by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
The tighter restrictions, including the closure of shops, was expected to be extended from London and the South, with the Midlands among the regions being considered.
Walsall Council leader Mike Bird said: “It is highly unlikely we will stay in Tier 3 with the amount of cases rising nationally.”
Sandwell Council leader Maria Crompton said: “It is a distinct possibility we are going into Tier 4. Cases are rising everywhere.”
Wolverhampton Council leader Ian Brookfield added: “I suspect all of the West Midlands areas will go into Tier 4.”
Nationally, England’s hospitals are currently seeing more Covid-19 patients than at the first-wave peak of the virus in April.
NHS England sent a letter to trusts on December 23 asking them to plan for the use of additional facilities such as the Nightingale hospitals amid rising numbers of patients with the virus.
A spokeswoman for The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust said: "Our hospitals and the wider NHS have been and continue to be incredibly busy over the festive period, especially in our emergency departments, with the number of patients with Covid-19 increasing.
"Our staff are working tirelessly to ensure patients are treated safely despite these very challenging conditions. It’s important everyone plays their part in reducing the spread of Covid-19 by observing social distancing, wearing face coverings in enclosed public spaces and regularly washing their hands for at least 20 seconds."