London’s largest hospital trust has moved into a “high pressure” phase because it is treating high numbers of patients with coronavirus.
It means some operations will have to be postponed – but cancer patients are not affected.
Barts Health and the London NHS Trust is treating 57 Covid patients in intensive care and staff are caring for a further 309 people who tested positive with the virus, according to figures released on 17 December.
Since the pandemic started in the spring 865 coronavirus patients died and 5,173 were discharged home.
The current increase in cases means it has ramped up its winter plan which rates the pressure in five stages from low to very high.
Last weekend it declared an internal incident at Whipps Cross Hospital because of emergency pressures but it has since been lifted and A&E stayed open.
High pressure means the trust has 70 to 150 patients in critical care and up to 500 patients overall, with 95% bed occupancy or higher.
The trust said because of the high number of patients “we will be deferring some routine procedures over the coming days so we can redeploy staff and increase the number of critical care and general beds available.”
However not every operation is postponed and it does not affect cancer patients.
The trust has 200 critical care beds and can take patients from other hospitals in north east London where Covid rates are particularly high. It also has capacity to add a further 70 critical care beds if there is a surge.
It would see an extra 71 critical care beds to add to the current 102 at the Royal London if there was a super surge, the 63 at Barts increased by another five and 14 more at Newham.
Both Whipps Cross and Newham will become surgical hubs to do operations such as cataract and hip and joint operations.
The hospital trust’s senior managers meet twice a week to respond to the pressure.
Back in October when it published its plan it said: “As the pressure ramps up we will need to divert more staff into critical care and caring for Covid-19 patients. That will involve redeploying people within the group, and bringing in extra staff from hospitals outside the Trust,” according to the plan.
If numbers get worse it could also call up 500 reservist nurses who were diverted from other duties during the first wave of the pandemic this spring.
The trust stressed that: “Our hospitals are open to those who need our care.”
It asked people to only come to A&E in the case of an emergency and dial 111 for anything else.