Covid-19: Major London hospital declares critical incident

By Jane Kirby, PA Health Editor

A major London hospital has declared a “critical incident” due to a surge in patients with Covid-19, as hospitals in the capital move to share intensive care capacity.

In a message to staff, Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow said it had contacted neighbouring hospitals about transferring patients who need critical care to other sites.

One intensive care consultant from another London trust told the PA news agency that hospitals in London are working together to share intensive care capacity, with a willingness to move patients between hospitals as needs be.

London is a hotspot for coronavirus, with more deaths registered in the capital than any other region.

The Northwick Park message, sent last night and revealed by the Health Service Journal (HSJ), said: “I am writing to let you know that we have this evening declared a ‘critical incident’ in relation to our critical care capacity at Northwick Park Hospital. This is due to an increasing number of patients with Covid-19.

“This means that we currently do not have enough space for patients requiring critical care.

“As part of our system resilience plans, we have contacted our partners in the North West London sector this evening to assist with the safe transfer of patients off of the Northwick Park site.”

The hospital is run by London North West University Healthcare Trust.

It said in a statement: “Critical care capacity for patients with coronavirus is being organised on a cross-London basis so that hospitals and organisations work together to deliver the best possible care for patients.

“This kind of co-ordinated, flexible response is one of the NHS’s strengths but with staff pulling out all the stops they need the public to play their part too, by following the expert guidance on washing your hands, staying at home and using health services responsibly.”

One senior director at another acute trust in London, who also saw the message, told HSJ: “Given we’re in the low foothills of this virus, this is… petrifying.

“The thing people aren’t really talking about yet is that we are going to have to quickly agree some clinical thresholds for admissions to intensive care.

“This is what the Italians have had to do, and whether it’s set at 60 or whatever, we are going to have to do something similar. There’s no way we’re going to be able to scale up to the level we need otherwise.

“The trusts in outer London seem to be hit much worse at the moment, probably about two weeks ahead of the rest of the country. Barnet, Lewisham and Greenwich, Epsom and St Helier, North Middlesex and Hillingdon are all struggling.

“I was in denial about the seriousness of this virus a couple of weeks ago, but not any more.

“I’m now on calls with commissioners about getting more people out of hospital and into the community, and they’re saying ’yes that’ll be done in the next week’, and I’m on the verge of screaming at them. Things are going completely nuts.

“And there’s a real problem with private care homes refusing to take patients back unless they’ve been tested for Covid-19. But that’s not the national guidance currently and there just aren’t enough testing kits to do it.”