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NHS fears UK holidaymakers could pile pressure on hospitals in tourism hotspots due to the surge in staycations

HOSPITAL chiefs in staycation destinations are "really nervous" about influxes of tourists this summer as they grapple with ahuge patient backlog.

Across the country, the NHS is battling to tackle waiting lists that have built up during the pandemic — as it braces itself for a possible surge in cases of the virulent Indian variant.

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But with many choosing staycations this half-term and summer because of restrictions on travelling abroad, NHS Providers, which represents hospitals, warned health trusts in tourism hotspots could struggle to cope. 

Chief executive Chris Hopson said hospital bosses were concerned about the transmissibility of the B1617.2 Indian variant and the large number of people who have still to receive a jab.

He warned that although hospitals were not expecting to be overwhelmed by a surge of Covid-19 cases, they were already stretched by going "full pelt" on dealing with the backlog of cases built up during the pandemic and urgent care needs.

Hospitals are operating under reduced capacity due to Covid-19 restrictions and increased numbers of coronavirus patients will add to difficulties by requiring wards to be reconfigured, he added.

Mr Hopson said: "Significant numbers of Covid-19 hospital inpatients will adversely impact care backlog recovery.

"The current degree of pressure on hospitals is worrying especially since we saw clear summer demand surges in the two years before Covid-19.

The current degree of pressure on hospitals is worrying especially since we saw clear summer demand surges in the two years before Covid-19

"But if, as evidence above suggests, success of (the) vaccination campaign means much lower levels of hospitalisation, serious illness and mortality, even with (the) new variant, that is very significant and important. 

“This means there is a difficult decision to make for June 21."

Mr Hopson also suggested the Government needs to consider the increased burden on hospitals in UK holiday hotspots in coming months with people not travelling abroad.

He said one trust chief on the south coast had warned they will "struggle" to meet the "significant extra demand".

Dr Mike Tildesley, from Spi-M and a professor of infectious disease modelling at the University of Warwick, said there was still "quite a lot of uncertainty" around the June 21 date.

He told LBC: "We are starting to see signs of course that cases are going up, but at the moment we're still obviously reporting hospital admissions and deaths at very low levels."

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the Government would wait for the latest data on June 14 before deciding whether to proceed the following week.

He said the Government aimed to offer two doses of vaccine to all over-50s by June 21 but he told Times Radio "I could do with more supply" because "I will be able to protect more people more rapidly".

Between May 19 and 25, 870 people went into hospital with coronavirus, an increase of 23.2 per cent compared with the previous seven days.

Meanwhile, the reproduction number — the R value — for England is 1 to 1.1, up from 0.9 and 1.1 the previous week, suggesting the epidemic is growing.

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