London hospital ‘opens critical care surge ward to cope with demand’

An ambulance sits outside the Accident and Emergency department of Guy's and St Thomas (File picture)  (Getty Images)
An ambulance sits outside the Accident and Emergency department of Guy's and St Thomas (File picture) (Getty Images)

A London hospital has been forced to open a critical care surge ward to cope with the number of seriously ill patients, according to a report.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital NHS Trust said its Edward ward at St Thomas’ hospital would open for “critical care surge capacity” on Thursday, the Sunday Times reported.

A leaked email obtained by the newspaper said that beds in the surge ward would be staffed by a full critical care team.

The Edward ward is a medical inpatient and plastic surgery ward.

A spokesperson for Guy’s and St Thomas’ said: “As part of existing plans for this winter and due to refurbishment works on one of our critical care wards, alternative space for critical care patients has been made available in St Thomas’.

“Our hospitals are very busy and we would encourage everyone who is eligible to get a flu jab and COVID booster this winter.”

Surge wards were used by hospitals during the Covid pandemic to ramp up capacity. The Royal Preston Hospital in Lancashire last year transformed its staff canteen into a surge ward to deal with a rising demand for beds.

It comes after the Standard reported how London A&Es are experiencing their worst ever winter crisis, with record waits for treatment in A&E and for ambulances.

Several trusts across the country have declared critical incidents in recent days, with a surge in flu cases piling further pressure on the health service.

Analysis of NHS figures by the Evening Standard found that paramedic crews in the capital lost the equivalent of 3.5 months as a result of handover delays in the week up to December 25, a rise of more than 12 per cent compared with a month earlier.

And more than 7,150 Londoners waited more than 12 hours to be admitted to A&E in November alone, an increase of 46 per cent in three months.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday acknowledged there were “challenges” in A&E and that the public would be “understandably anxious when they see ambulances queuing outside hospitals”.

“You should know we’re taking urgent action,” he added.

Siva Anandaciva, chief analyst at The King’s Fund think tank, told the Standard: “Every winter in the NHS is challenging, but I’ve never seen it this bad in my career. I’ve lost count of how many years I’ve been analysing A&E and ambulance wait times and I’ve never seen figures like this in London.”

Matthew Taylor chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said that pressures on frontline staff were becoming “unbearable”.

He added: “They will be questioning whether the Prime Minister and his government, given how this - worst on record - winter crisis is unfolding before us, have truly understood the sheer scale of demand versus the capacity of the health service to deliver against it.”

NHS Providers’ director of communications Adam Brimelow said: “Trust leaders strive every day to make things better for patients and their staff have pulled out all the stops to tackle the longest waits for planned treatment and get back to pre-pandemic levels of activity in the face of chronic staff shortages and ever-growing demand.

“But these are extremely testing times for a health service under unprecedented pressure and we must be realistic about what can be achieved under current conditions. Services and staff are overstretched and the NHS is seeing the impact of a surge in flu cases on top of the usual winter challenges.”