When announcing the national lockdown, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the NHS risked being overwhelmed if the measures weren’t taken.
But statistics suggest that the proportion of beds currently occupied by patients is actually lower than usual.
So how can both things be true?
…To create that wiggle room, there has been a big decrease in patients coming in for non-urgent operations and outpatient appointments, to ensure that space is there and pressures are not increased.
Even in September 2020, when hospitals were beginning to increase the number of operations carried out, these were still 25% lower than in previous years.
This also helps explain why there are also fewer patients in hospitals this year, as well as fewer beds.
The impact of this is a large backlog and the potential for certain treatments – such as cancer care – being delayed.
Scores of MPs and former ministers have urged the prime minister to tackle a backlog in NHS cancer care that threatens to lead to thousands of early deaths over the next decade.
One senior oncologist has claimed that in a worst-case scenario the effects of the pandemic could result in 30,000 excess cancer deaths over the next decade.