COVID-19: NHS alert level should be lowered, health boss says

The head of NHS England has recommended lowering the health service’s COVID emergency alert level because of reduced hospital admissions.

Chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said there are currently 4,000 patients being treated for coronavirus in hospital – down from 34,000 in mid-January.

Because of "much reduced acute pressures on the health service", he said he was "recommending that we reduce the national alert level across the health service from level four to level three and that would take effect today".

Sir Simon said there are still 400 more patients in hospital than on this day a year ago, but there had been a "very sharp decrease" nevertheless.

That was due to "both declining infection rates across the community and the impact that’s now being felt from the vaccination programme".

More than 28 million people have now had a first jab.

Level four of the the Emergency Preparedness, Resilience and Response Framework is an "incident that requires NHS England national command and control to support the NHS Response".

Level three means "an incident that requires the response of a number of health organisations across geographical areas within an NHS England region".

Earlier, Mark Simmonds, who works in critical care for Nottingham University Hospitals’ Trust, shared a photograph from Queen’s Medical Centre.

A whiteboard at the hospital shows there are no coronavirus patients left in the hospital’s COVID ICU.

Mr Simmonds explained that three purpose-made COVID ICUs were created at the hospital during the peak. Two have closed already, while the last patients left the final one yesterday.

"It will now be thoroughly cleaned and then reopen as an extension to our existing ICU whilst COVID numbers remain low," Mr Simmonds said.

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