Hospitals under 'significant pressure' and treating Covid patients in ambulances

Ambulances outside Queen's Hospital in Romford, London, which has moved into the highest tier of cor

Ambulances outside Queen's Hospital in Romford - Credit: PA

The NHS trust, which operates Queen’s Hospital in Romford and Goodmayes’ King George Hospital, has admitted it is facing “significant pressure” to treat all Covid patients. 

The statement from Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust’s chief medical officer Magda Smith comes amid reports some patients are having to be treated in the back of ambulances because beds are full. 

She said: “London’s NHS is under significant pressure from high Covid-19 infection rates and non-Covid winter demands, with staff in all services going the extra mile and we are opening more beds to care for the most unwell patients.   

“It is more important than ever that Londoners follow government guidance and do everything possible to reduce transmission of the virus.”   

King George Hospital

King George Hospital - Credit: Archant

The trust added that it was opening extra beds and capacity for the sickest patients “by working across London to support those areas under the greatest pressure”. 

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It said it was also asking medical staff to take additional shifts or accept roles in areas where there is most pressure. 

The move comes following reports that patients at Queen’s are being treated inside ambulances "because they don't have enough beds left - that's how bad the situation is". 

An unnamed A&E doctor told Sky News: "It's as busy or even more busy than the first wave. 

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"The patients are first being treated by the ambulance staff as they are picked up from their homes. And then when they reach the emergency department they're waiting in the vans until a bed becomes available. 

"Treatment is ongoing during that time and then they're waiting in the A&E department until a bed becomes available in the respiratory or intensive care unit. This can take a variable amount of time and is clinically determined." 

Meanwhile, pictures and videos are appearing across social media of ambulances waiting outside east London hospitals. 

Last night, images showed dozens queuing outside the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, as the numbers continued to grow at Queen’s and King George hospitals. 

Ambulances queuing outside the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, Tower Hamlets

Ambulances queuing outside the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel - Credit: Salim Ahmed Khan

Barts Health NHS Trust, which operates The Royal London, St Bartholomew's, Whipps Cross, Mile End and Newham hospitals, has previously said it is deferring some routine procedures due to the number of Covid-19 patients it is treating.

The trust, which serves around 2.5 million people, said it has moved to the "high pressure" phase of its winter escalation plan.

Professor Kevin Fenton, London regional director for Public Health England, said: “London has some of the highest levels of Covid-19 infection in the country and our hospital admissions are rising.  

“We know that the majority of new cases in Londoners are due to the new strain of SARS-CoV-2, which is more infectious and spreads rapidly.” 

Around three in five new coronavirus cases in London are the new mutant variant, according to the Office of National Statistics. 

While the case rate does vary, in Havering it is now 1,213 per 100,000 people who have returned a positive test, with Redbridge and Barking & Dagenham also among the highest in the country at 1,114 and 1,060 respectively. 

NHS Nightingale hospital

NHS Nightingale hospital in Custom House is 'on standby'. - Credit: PA

Tower Hamlets has a positive Covid test rate of 973 people in every 100,000. 

The capital's NHS Nightingale hospital is still on standby as the number of Covid-19 patients passes the peak set in the first wave. 

The temporary hospital at the ExCeL in Custom House is currently empty but could be brought back into service, the NHS confirmed yesterday

Latest hospitalisation data shows that, on December 28, there were 4,957 Covid-19 patients in London hospitals, with 556 requiring ventilators.  

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