Nurses will be relocated to London from other parts of England under NHS plans to help hospitals in the capital face a “tsunami” of Covid-19 patients within a few days, the Guardian learned.
In an unprecedented package of measures, the NHS will also ask doctors to sleep on the spot for six weeks at the newly built Nightingale hospital, discarding limits on the number of patients that nurses can take care of in intensive care units and explore whether the fans are intended for one person and can be used for two.
NHS England has also asked its network of regional nurse chiefs if they can save staff, particularly ICU specialists, to work in London during the height of the pandemic, which is expected to begin early next month.
The moves emerged when the total number of reported deaths in the UK rose to 578; an official said the national health service faced an “extreme peak” of critically ill patients early next month.
The plans are part of a series of measures developed in recent days by senior officials from the London region of NHS England and disclosed to the Guardian.
National health service providers, who represent hospital trusts, have warned that some hospitals in the capital are filling up so quickly with people left seriously ill with coronavirus that they will soon be full.
Last week, Northwick Park hospital in north-west London had to declare a “critical accident” after running out of space to allow Covid-19 patients and doctors to intubate them (insert a tube) into so you can put them on a fan.
Officials involved in the NHS emergency preparedness effort in London revealed that:
The lack of fans forced the NHS planners to explore whether a machine could be used to keep two patients alive, dramatically increasing capacity in one fell swoop.
London will have 7,500 ICU beds by the end of next week – 27 times more than the 275 it had before the outbreak began in January.
There is concern that lack of oxygen could hinder the unit to save lives through the massive expansion of intensive care capacity: hospitals will need daily deliveries for the maintenance of all extra fans.
Doctors from the newly created Nightingale hospital at London’s ExCel center who take care of thousands of patients receiving death or death care will work there for at least six weeks, working five days in a row before taking a break – and sleep on the spot.
The only number of patients who get sick will see the usual staff relationships in the ICU units temporarily accustomed, so that an ICU nurse takes care of six patients instead of one: in what the doctors privately warned was a “incredible” relaxation that would have hit the standard of care.
Chris Hopson, managing director of national health service providers, said London hospitals have expanded critical care capacity five to seven times in the past few weeks, but the heads of those hospitals have been alarmed at how quickly the beds are filling up in the capital.
He said the problems were exacerbated by the fact that medical personnel were ill with suspected coronavirus or in vulnerable groups, with 30-50% of people not working in some trusts.