Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. The Staggers
8 January 2021

The crisis in London’s hospitals exposes the real challenge of a pandemic

With London’s hospitals two weeks away from being overwhelmed, we are enduring the direct consequences of keeping the capital's economy open.

By Stephen Bush

London’s hospitals are two weeks away from being overwhelmed by coronavirus cases, according to a leaked NHS England briefing obtained by the Health Service Journala story which lays bare the real challenge created by the novel coronavirus.

As Ailbhe explains well, the big lie at the heart of the United Kingdom’s lockdown debate was always that you could choose between lockdown or no lockdown: ultimately the challenge created by the pandemic is that a high enough outbreak means the suspension of modern medicine as we know it, and with it the economic and social consequences of both Covid-19 and of countless otherwise treatable injuries and ailments. 

Minimising the risk of coronavirus patients infecting other patients is a key part of preventing the nightmare of hospitals become infection centres themselves – and one genuine success of the United Kingdom’s response to the pandemic is that thus far this has been avoided. This need to minimise infection risk means that one coronavirus patient takes up much more NHS capacity than a normal sick patient would, further increasing the pressures on the health service. 

​​​​​​​London’s struggles now are a direct consequence of the decision to keep the capital open – in order to boost the country’s economy – and run its healthcare capacity as hot as possible. But they also preview the challenges that could be faced elsewhere if England’s third lockdown does not prove tight enough to control the spread of infections, or if the vaccine rollout doesn’t proceed at the speed required to reduce the number of cases requiring hospitalisation.

[see also: How the UK lost control of the mutant strain of Covid-19]

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

Content from our partners
What are the green skills of the future?
A global hub for content producers, gaming and entertainment companies in Abu Dhabi
Insurance: finding sustainable growth in stormy markets