Royal Free reports huge increase in A&E patients following ‘Freedom Day’

Small number of Covid deaths but pressure building on medics

Thursday, 22nd July 2021 — By Tom Foot

Hampstead-Royal Free Hospital002-2016

The Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead

HOSPITAL chiefs have warned of a “huge increase” in attendances at accident and emergency as the government ended Covid restrictions on “Freedom Day”.

The Royal Free Hospital sent out a bulletin saying an unexpected surge at the casualty in Pond Street was “putting staff under immense pressure”.

“Every day, we’re seeing more and more patients arrive and the demand for our services is growing exponentially,” said Angshu Mukherjee, an emergency department clinical director at Royal Free London.

Covid patient admissions remain relatively low compared to the peak of the pandemic. But the large numbers of patients coming in to the hospital is worrying staff because infection figures are rising dramatically.

Latest statistics show a dramatic rise in Covid infections being recorded in Camden with daily case figures now around the same level as in late February.

This time the majority are 10-35 years old. Many thousands of residents’ serious health conditions worsened during the lockdown because they did not seek treatment, fearing catching an infection in hospital.

The full impact of Covid is not yet fully understood, but is understood to have had a lasting effect on people’s hearts and lungs.

There is also concern that the message of “Freedom Day” on Monday – that Covid is under control – is causing many residents to take their chances in the hospital A&E over trying to find medical help online.

One insider at the Royal Free, speaking after a gruelling night shift, said: “To be honest the whole idea of Freedom Day has felt like some sort of parallel universe for everyone who works in the hospital.

“It’s really busy out there [the emergency department] now. There are a lot of staff… well, I just don’t think they can take another winter like last one, mentally. “Meanwhile, it feels like there’s a lot of people gloating about not having to wear masks.”

They added: “It feels reckless to suggest everything is going back to normal. It’s not just about wearing or not wearing masks on the bus – it’s the wider impact of people thinking it’s all over. “It’s not all over. It’s not all over for us.”

The healthcare worker, who works on the wards, suggested problems with patients accessing face-to-face consultations with GPs was also behind the large numbers of people coming into the A&E.

The Royal Free and Whittington hospitals have registered a small number of Covid-related deaths in recent weeks, for the first time in the past fortnight.

The Royal Free said this week: “Please contact NHS 111 first if you need help with an urgent, but not life-threatening medical need.”

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