Nearly half of coronavirus patients who leave intensive care are dying, shocking new figures have revealed.

Data released by the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC) shows that 79 out of 165 patients who were admitted for critical care in England, Wales and Northern Ireland since the end of February lost their lives. 

The audit, which looked at the cases of 775 patients in total, shows that 86 made a recovery and were discharged, while 610 remain in intensive care.

The staggering death rates have led to worries over how effective critical care is for patients who succumb to the flu-like virus.

Health bosses are urgently building new field hospitals in London, Birmingham and Manchester, creating some of the biggest units the country has ever seen.

A 4,000-bed emergency hospital has ben built at the Excel Centre in London

But speaking to the Observer, one doctor said: “The truth is that quite a lot of these individuals [in critical care] are going to die anyway and there is a fear that we are just ventilating them for the sake of it, for the sake of doing something for them, even though it won’t be effective.

“That’s a worry,” he said.

The UK recorded the steepest rise in coronavirus deaths in 24 hours yet on Saturday.

The toll has now risen to 1,019, leaping by 260 from 759 the previous day, while cases soared to more than 17,000.

NHS England medical director Professor Stephen Powis has said the UK will have done “very well” if the final death toll is below 20,000 people.

The ICNARC report also reveals that although the majority of those losing their lives to Covid-19 in the UK are over 70, nine of those who died in intensive care were not elderly, and aged between 16 and 49.

Medical equipment outside the Excel Centre, London

Of the 86 who survived, 28 were from this younger age group. 

It has also found that the virus hits men much harder than women, with seven in ten of all intensive care patients being male.

Over 70% of patients were overweight, obese or clinically obese, leading to concerns that excess weight is also a key risk factor.

It comes as Brendan Wren, Professor of Microbial Pathogenesis at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, warned that yesterday’s death toll “approximates to a person dying every five minutes in our hospitals from Covid-19”.

He added: “With the doubling rate of infection every four/five days and the epidemic expected to peak in two/three weeks it is possible that we may get to much higher levels in the coming weeks before we see if the social distancing interventions have an impact.”

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Coronavirus outbreak

Every household in the UK will be sent a letter from  Boris Johnson  next week warning them things will get worse before they get better.

The message from the Prime Minister - who himself has Covid-19 and is self-isolating in Number 11 - will land on the doorsteps of 30 million households across all four UK nations from next week.

Mr Johnson will warn that lockdown restrictions could get even tougher, and will outline the guidance everyone should follow.

He will urge everyone to follow the rules to save lives and thank NHS staff working round the clock as well as everyone volunteering their time to protect others.