Coronavirus patients on NHS intensive care wards are 'competing' for ventilators to keep them alive as hospital admissions continue to rise, a doctor has warned.
Dr Megan Smith, from Guy's and ST Thomas' Hospital Trust in London, said medics are facing "horrifying" decisions as they have to choose which patients get access to lifesaving treatment.
She warned an expected surge in patients triggered by people mixing friends and family over Christmas hasn't even started yet.
She says the situation is expected to get worse later this month and into February.
It comes as 53,285 people tested positive for coronavirus in the latest data from the Government on January 1.
Almost 2,500 patients were admitted to hospital in one day, with the latest data available on December 22.
There are also 1,847 patients on ventilation with a total 23,823 patients in hospital.
NHS England data shows that in the last week of December, 743 more intensive care beds available than in the same week of 2019.
But in the same week, there were, on average, 828 more patients in critical care.
Over the Christmas week, two hospitals' ICU wards were 100% full, and another 11 out of 18 were more than 90% full, reports the Mail Online.
Some major hospitals have been forced to treat patients in ambulances outside due to the demand.
NHS bosses warn even hospitals that aren't full or almost full are struggling due to staff sickness or because beds have to spread out more across the hospital to follow social distance rules.
Dr Smith, talking in an interview with ITN yesterday, said: "It's not a position any of us ever want to be in, and we're used to making difficult decisions as doctors, but deciding the outcome of, effectively a competition for a ventilator, is just not what anyone signed up for.
"In terms of the emotional trauma for those individuals it's horrifying. We shouldn't be having to do it but we are."
She explained that the surge in patients London's hospitals are already struggling with likely doesn't even include many of the people who inevitably caught coronavirus over Christmas.
"The patients that we're seeing now - and we're already higher than the peak that we had back in March and April -were infected two or three weeks ago," Dr Smith added.
"So the patients that we will see as a result of the relaxation of the rules around Christmas, and people just not necessarily observing the rules properly as well, we'll see them in two or three weeks' time.
"I think January and February are going to be the most difficult and most awful months that most healthcare workers will have faced ever in their career."