Infectious Diseases

Coronavirus UK: When will COVID-19 overwhelm the NHS?

Posted on 11 April 2020

Everyone around the world is dealing with the consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak. They are also wondering if their healthcare system will be able to cope, and if their social-distancing measures are working. Here in the UK we have been told to help ‘flatten the curve‘ by ‘staying at home’ to ‘protect the NHS‘, but what does that mean. When will we hit the peak of the curve, how many people will possibly die, and how overwhelmed is our National Health Service (NHS).

Instead of the vague discussions about ‘flattening the curve’ and ‘protecting the NHS‘ the team at University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) have put together a model which predicts the number, and timeframes with reaching the peak of the curve, and NHS support. The IHME model forecasts the impact of social distancing on the total number of hospital beds, ICU beds, and ventilators that we have in the UK. It also predicts how many deaths we will see per day before the number starts to slow down.

IHME UK’s COVI-19 projections assuming full social distancing through May 2020. Source

As of this morning (11th April, 2020) these are IHME UK’s COVI-19 projections assuming full social distancing through May 2020:

  • We are 4 days until peak resource use of all hospital resources in the UK. This will happen on or around the 15th of April 2020.
  • The NHS in the UK currently has a total of 64,266 beds, of which only 17,765 are still available. If the current projected numbers hold the NHS will see a hospital bed shortage of about 46,501 bed by the end of April 2020.
  • We are 6 days until projected peak in daily deaths in the UK. The projected peak number of deaths will reach around 1,674 deaths per day on the 17th of April 2020.
  • If we keep full social distancing through to the end of May 2020 then we may see around 37,494 COVID-19 deaths by August 4, 2020
  • The IHME COVID-19 projections for the UK, and other countries is available here:

Every death is a major tragedy, but we may yet find solace that we can contain the impact of COVID-19 to these projected numbers by doing our part — by staying at home, and social distancing.


The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME):

Forecasting COVID-19 impact on hospital bed-days, ICU-days, ventilator-days and deaths by US state in the next 4 months:

Guidance on social distancing for everyone in the UK:

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