Critical-care patients in London could be moved to Yorkshire because beds are full

Jimmy Nsubuga
·3-min read

Watch: Ambulances queue outside London hospital as patient cases in capital higher than first wave

Critical-care patients could be transferred from London to Yorkshire because hospital beds are full, according to a new report.

Officials have asked to move patients from the capital as coronavirus hospitalisations continue to rise, senior sources told the Health Service Journal (HSJ).

The number of COVID patients in hospital has now surpassed the first-wave peak in April.

Intensive care units are currently at 114.2% capacity in London, 113.4% in the South East and 100.6% in the East of England, data leaked to the medical publication showed.

More than 60% of patients in critical care have been diagnosed with coronavirus, it reported.

Patients in intensive care are often moved within regions but longer journeys such as from London to Yorkshire are rare.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 29: A great number of ambulances wait outside London Royal Hospital as the number of coronavirus (Covid-19) cases surge due the new variant that considerably more transmissible than previous strains in London, United Kingdom on December 29, 2020. (Photo by Hasan Esen/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Ambulances wait outside London Royal Hospital as COVID hospitalisations surge. (Getty)

A London clinician told HSJ: “Capacity in London is looking very serious at the moment: the numbers are still going up.

“Several hospitals are either at or near their full surge capacity. There is fairly extensive transfer activity between hospitals.

“It looks like that is going to be the case for a fairly extended period of time and is likely to get worse in the aftermath of the holiday period.”

Hospital staff in other areas may be redeployed to deal with the rising numbers, the publication reported.

The government is under increasing pressure to toughen up England’s tier system of coronavirus restrictions in the face of the increasing strain on hospitals.

Figures from NHS England showed there were 21,787 patients in NHS hospitals in England as of 8am on Tuesday, compared with 20,426 on Monday and 18,974 at the first-wave peak on 12 April.

In total, five of the seven NHS regions in England are currently reporting a record number of COVID-19 hospital patients: Eastern England, London, the Midlands, the South East and the South West.

The surge in coronavirus cases has led local authorities in Essex to declare a “major incident”, The Guardian reported.

Health secretary Matt Hancock is due to announce any changes to tier areas in a statement to the Commons on Wednesday.

A passenger wearing a mask because of the coronavirus pandemic talks on the telephone waiting at a bus stop with a government message about the coronavirus tier 4 restrictions urging people to stay home in London on December 29, 2020. - England is "back in the eye" of the coronavirus storm, health chiefs warned Tuesday, with as many patients in hospital as during the initial peak in April. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
More areas are likely to be placed in Tier 4 on Wednesday. (Getty)

Stephen Webb. president of the Intensive Care Society, said hospitals may need to cancel elective care appointments to deal with the surge of hospitalisations.

He said: “We need a message to the public but also to NHS England & Improvement to say that we are reaching a crisis, and we do need the full force of the NHS’s resources pointed towards hospitals to support patients with COVID-19.”

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An NHS spokesperson said: “The NHS has tried and tested plans in place to manage significant pressure either from high COVID-19 infection rates or non-COVID winter demands and this has always included mutual aid practices whereby hospitals work together to manage admissions.

“While the NHS is opening more beds in places like London to care for the most unwell patients, it is vital that people continue to follow government guidance and do everything possible to reduce transmission of the virus.”

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