Pippa Nightingale, chief executive of London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust, said there were “not enough beds” for the amount of patients arriving at the A&E at Northwick Park hospital and that “robust” plans would be needed to cope with future winters.
Northwick Park receives more blue light ambulances to its A&E than any other London hospital and bed occupancy rates are consistently high. Like other hospitals in the capital, it has struggled to free up beds and discharge patients due to a lack of capacity in the social care system. Speaking to the Standard, Ms Nightingale said that the last few months had been a “challenge” with significant pressure on the hospital’s emergency departments.
But she warned that a different strategy would be needed for the next two winters and that the opening of a new intensive care unit at Northwick Park would be key to providing better care.
“The only way that we can achieve our plans is by having more beds. There are not enough beds for the number of patients coming to A&E. We can do this in a simple way — by building a new ward — but the more sustainable option is to expand critical care. The borough of Brent had the highest mortality rate from Covid in London, so we are still running two wards as intensive care units.
“What we want to do is build a new state-of-the-art intensive care unit, which will release those two wards and make room for additional beds.”
Ms Nightingale said that the new critical care facility would have 58 beds but that she was “chasing” Whitehall for funding. Health Secretary Steve Barclay visited Northwick Park last month.
She added: “We need capital funding for our buildings. Though we have an allocation, the estate is very old and it has the biggest backlog of maintenance of any London hospital. I simply have to do these works — we have to ensure the hospital is safe, has working lifts and meets fire regulations.”
Ms Nightingale said that she wished to see greater focus in Westminster on the issue of discharging patients into social care to fix the NHS crisis.
“There needs to be a greater understanding by ministers of the impact that social care has on hospitals. That will enable our hospitals to run more smoothly and ensure our A&Es are not clogged up.”