Hospitals in Kent are treating twice as many coronavirus patients than they did at the height of the first wave.

People across the county are being asked to use NHS services “wisely” as pressure on hospitals, the ambulance service and 111 mounts.

Coronavirus infection rates continue to rise throughout Kent, with Dartford recording 1238 cases per 100,000 people in the latest week, one of the highest rates for any area in the country.

Wilf Williams, Accountable Officer for NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and the strategic lead for the NHS response to Coronavirus in Kent and Medway, said: “The NHS is always busy at this time of year but the latest wave of Covid is putting all of our services under immense pressure.

"This is the hardest period we’ve seen since the start of the pandemic and we’re incredibly grateful to everyone who is working very hard to manage these challenging circumstances.

“We currently have twice the number of Covid positive patients receiving care in our hospitals than we did in the first wave.

“As Covid cases in the community have risen, the number of hospital admissions has also increased and there is pressure on all of our services.

“Our hospitals, ambulances, A&Es, community services, 111 and GP practices are experiencing high demand so we’re asking everyone who needs to use NHS services to do so wisely.

“We urge the public to play their part in stopping the spread of Covid-19 by staying at home as much as possible, social distancing, wearing masks and washing their hands. If anyone needs urgent medical help they should call 111 first.”

More critical care beds have been made available, while vital cancer treatment and other urgent operations are continuing.

Some other procedures may be delayed however, as staff are needed to support the additional critical care beds which have opened.

Patients have been advised to keep appointments unless they have been told not to attend.