LONDON could run out of intensive care beds in just four days – leaving the weaker patients to die, it’s reported.
Medics say the UK are already in a frightening “Italy situation” and are being forced to choose which patients infected with Covid-19 they should try and save.
It comes as the UK yesterday saw its biggest daily spike in deaths from coronavirus, taking the nationwide total to 422.
One of NHS England’s national directors warned health bosses on Tuesday that London would run out of intensive care beds in just four days without urgent action.
Claire Murdoch, the NHS’ national director for mental health, said the need for intensive care beds will now double every three days.
The capital’s hospitals are now frantically planning to try to quadruple their “surge capacity” in intensive care over the next fortnight, from around 1,000 surge beds over the weekend just passed, to more than 4,000 in two weeks’ time, according to the Health Service Journal (HSJ).
The worst-hit trust in the country is London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust, where 21 patients who tested positive for the new coronavirus have died since Friday.
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The trust controls two major hospitals including Northwick Park in Harrow, which last week became the first in the country to declare a “critical incident” with its intensive care unit 100 per cent full.
Staff at the Northwick Park hospital in Harrow told The Daily Telegraph that doctors are now rationing care to those most likely to survive and medical workers have built a new six-bed car ward because the site has run out of space.
One senior nurse said: “We’re already in an Italy situation where the doctors are deciding who should be put on the ventilators, and who should not.
“Most of the people who passed away have been elderly with various comorbidities, but we also have younger people struggling to breathe, and they will sometimes get the ventilators first.”
The nurse also warned that there aren’t enough people to operate machines and that even staff with flu-like symptoms are coming in because there’s nobody else to care for coronavirus patients.
It comes as a survey of NHS chief executives across the country found one in three hospital expected to run out of intensive care capacity by next week.
Nicki Credland, chair of the British Association of Critical Care Nurses, said the profession had no choice but to “dilute” the standard of care to try to help more patients.
She told HSJ: “There will absolutely be a lot of concern about this in the profession, but it’s the only option we’ve got available.
“We simply don’t have the capacity to increase our staffing levels quickly enough.
“It will dilute the standard of care, but that’s absolutely better than not having enough critical care staff.”
Consultants will also have to oversee more patients, with a ratio of one senior doctor for 15 patients replaced with a 1: 30 rule.
The poll of 34 trust chief executives by Health Service Journal found that 11 expected their trust to run out of intensive care capacity by next week, with warnings from eight such trusts expecting to exhaust their resources this week.
One said: “We are preserving ventilation capacity by ensuring that only those who may survive are considered.”
Claire Murdoch, of NHS England, said: “This is exactly why the NHS is already increasing treatment capacity across all hospitals, while getting on with other options too, including new facilities and as landmark deal with private hospitals which has put 20,000 staff, 8,000 beds and 1,200 ventilators at our disposal.”
Experts say this is the difference between the UK and Germany, which appears to be beating the coronavirus odds with just 171 deaths.
They say the fact Germany has one of the world’s highest concentrations of hospitals may be helping to keep the German death rate down.
On top of this, the German government said it would double the number of intensive care beds to about 56,000 amid the coronavirus pandemic, while the UK has just 4,000 ICU beds.
The UK yesterday saw its biggest daily spike in deaths from coronavirus, taking the nationwide total to 422.
Eighty-three of the 89 coronavirus fatalities confirmed on Tuesday were in England, with two in Scotland, one in Wales, and three in Northern Ireland.
On top of this, 1,427 more patients were confirmed to have the virus – taking the total number of infected Brits to over 8,000.
However, the true size of the outbreak is likely unknown because of the Government’s controversial decision to only test patients in hospital.
The Health Secretary yesterday announced plans to use London’s ExCeL conference centre as a field hospital, with 4,000 beds split into two giant wards.
From next week, it will provide 500 beds equipped with ventilators and oxygen.