DOWNING Street has been accused of running a "brainwashing PR campaign" as it's claimed that just FOUR NHS trusts are busier than last year.
As England emerges from another draconian lockdown, ministers have warned that the health service risks being "overwhelmed" by Covid patients if the new Tier system is not adhered to.
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However, the Mail Online claims that official data shows only four NHS trusts are busier now than last December - despite the pandemic.
The report says there are THOUSANDS of beds spare this year compared to last winter.
It is claimed NHS England figures show that 87.7 per cent of beds - 77,942 out of 88,903 - were occupied in the week ending Nov. 22.
In comparison, the Mail reports that occupancy last year stood at 94.9 per cent on average during a seven-day spell ending on Dec. 8, 2019 - weeks before the first Covid patient was treated in the UK.
Yet, the NHS has hit back insisting that comparing the current data with last year's is like "comparing apples and pears" because hospital capacities have changed - with wards split into Covid and non-Covid with socially distanced beds.
The data also does not take into account the thousands of beds at private hospitals which are also currently treating patients infected with the coronavirus.
This comes after a report last month revealing most of the country's Nightingale hospitals - hastily constructed to deal with a feared influx of Covid victims - have never treated a single patient.
Meanwhile, the Mail's report says that only four trusts - Cambridge Universtory Hospitals Foundation Trust, University College London Hospitals, Calderdale and Huddersfield and Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh - are busier now than they were last winter.
But, the data also shows that nearly one third of hospitals in England are treating more Covid patients NOW than during April - at the height of the outbreak.
Yet, there are 4,000 less people with the virus in medical facilities than during the darkest days of the pandemic.
Dr Karol Sikora, of the University of Buckingham, accused the government of running a "brainwashing PR campaign" and using "data which doesn't stack up."
She told the Mail: "We've gone back to how it started in March, with [the Government] claiming we need the measures to protect the NHS. The data you've shown me proves that it doesn't need protecting. It's dealing with Covid very well indeed.
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'What the data shows is that hospitals are not working at full capacity and they've still got some spare beds for Covid if necessary. The public is being misled, the data doesn't stack up. Fear and scaremongering is being used to keep people out of hospital.'
An NHS spokesperson said: "The pandemic has changed the way the NHS delivers care, with hospitals having to split services into Covid and non-Covid zones to protect patients in a way that was not necessary less than a year ago, meaning some beds cannot be used due to enhanced Infection Prevention and Control measures
"This means that trying to compare current occupancy figures with those from before the pandemic is like comparing apples and pears and does not reflect the very real pressures that hospitals are seeing due to rising numbers of patients with Covid-19, which is why it’s so important we all continue to follow the government guidelines and help stop the spread of the virus."