Military aid has been called in to support hospitals in parts of the UK as they prepare to reach an Omicron peak.
NHS bosses are in talks with the military over assistance with ancillary support.
This will include porter work, administration and cleaning, as staff in these areas are affected by many absences alongside their medical colleagues.
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Hospitals in Greater Manchester have already requested military assistance as the system braces for more pressure.
As the number of patients in London has shown signs of leveling off, demand from hospitals has exceeded last year’s peak in recent days and continues to rise, the Mirror reports.
Soldiers may also be asked to provide basic care such as hydration and nutrition for those in “super surge” beds – those open in parts of hospitals that are not generally used as wards, but adapted into mini nightingale-style installations.
The Royal Oldham, which serves one of the poorest populations in the country, is said to be in particular difficulty, as it has done in previous waves of the pandemic.
The pressure is mostly on beds outside of intensive care, unlike in previous waves, but the scale of the demand – which means general beds are over 90 pc full – has already seen elective surgeries. canceled almost everywhere here, in order to free up staff.
That work is expected to remain on hold for another fortnight and managers admit hospitals may still have to declare a ‘black alert’, known in the NHS as the OPEL 4 escalation.
Chris Brookes, Greater Manchester Acute Manager and A&E Consultant at Salford Royal, says the system has held up well so far, but although January is still extremely difficult, “it would be wrong to say it’s not pressure more intense, because it is’.
“The word I would use is uncomfortable. When the bed occupancy rate is between 90 and 90%, it is an uncomfortable place. “
It comes as the number of reported Covid deaths in the UK in the past 24 hours has climbed to 398, setting a new highest total during the Omicron wave.
The latest government figures show the death toll has risen by 19 since yesterday.
The number of cases has increased by 129,587 cases in the past 24 hours, a decrease of 33.4% from a week ago.
As of Wednesday, the UK recorded 194,747 cases.
The latest figures come as a primary care doctor says it seems “increasingly likely” the country will be able to use the Omicron variant.
Dr Richard Cree, intensive care consultant at James Cook University Hospital who blogged about his work during the pandemic, said: ‘Across the country, the number of people admitted to hospital following a infection remains high.
“However, the number of people admitted has not increased as high as I feared and it may even start to stabilize.”
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