Modelling the impact of Covid-19 on the NHS

This is our live blog post on our independent modelling of the potential impact of COVID-19 on the NHS. We are planning to update this as more data become available and as our understanding improves. If you have any questions, suggestions or feedback in general, please contact George at or 07980804956.

Other posts on our work on Covid-19 can be found here. ----

Last updated on 20 March 2020.



  • Growth in Covid-19 cases is exponential, so these will start to rise quickly in the next 4-8 weeks if there are no mitigating actions, such as school closures and transport restrictions

  • Most cases will be mild, although 5% of people infected will be critical and require respiratory support, another 15% will be severe and likely require hospitalisation

  • In the unmitigated scenario the potential impact on demand for beds and beds with ventilators is very high by the end of May - 500,000 and 90,000 - this is significantly higher than the number of hospital and critical care beds currently available - 150,000 and 4,000 - and will not happen

  • Under a scenario where growth is mitigated to 1.06 by the end of March, there would still be a requirement for hospital beds and beds with ventilators of 180,000 and 30,000 respectively - this would mean a need for 7.5 times increase in the number of critical care beds

  • Under a scenario where 50% of the most vulnerable people are isolated, the peak number of infections falls to a high of 1 million in August and the demand on beds and beds with ventilators would be 155,000 and 19,000


  1. Introduction

  2. Growth of Covid-19 cases

  3. Potential impact on the NHS

  4. Mitigating the growth

  5. Protecting the vulnerable

  6. Annex – modelling assumptions

1. Introduction

Our initial modelling, which does not include mitigations estimates that there will be a peak of Covid-19 cases towards the middle of May with 3.7 million – 1.8 million of which would be new in April. This will vary by region and depend on the number of cases being reported and critically any mitigations to the growth rate.

Many people will recover, but some cases will require hospital care. While these represent a small proportion of total cases the number quickly becomes large due to the exponential speed of growth seen to date.