Critically ill Covid patients to be moved from London & south-east to West Country as wards overwhelmed in second wave

CRITICALLY ill coronavirus patients will be moved from London and the South East to the West County as wards continue to be overwhelmed during the second wave.

Brits with Covid-19 will travel hundreds of miles to “pair” areas where the NHS has not yet been overwhelmed by the rise in cases.

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Those living in the east of England will be sent to the Midlands while the Nightingale hospital at London’s Excel centre will reopen in two weeks, reports The Sunday Times.

It is believed to be the first time national pairing arrangements have been used since the NHS was founded in 1948.

The move was sparked following a spate of warnings from concerned doctors that some NHS hospitals cannot cope due to the new mutant strain.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, confirmed a small number of patients will be transferred to the South West and Midlands from the hardest-hit areas.

It comes as:

  • Brits ‘on the brink of Tier 5 lockdown’
  • PM says send kids to school
  • Highest ever cases are ‘mild compared to what’s next’
  • Postcode lottery for Covid jabs revealed 
  • Parts of UK could be set for Tier 5


Mr Hopson said it is one of the benefits of having a national NHS, adding there are “particular complex patients with specialist critical care needs who can be safely moved”.

Mr Hopson said: “At the moment hospitals are doing a great job creating extra surge capacity in London and the southeast to treat the critically ill.

“If it gets more difficult, we will find other ways to treat people within the region but we know there are some patients that can be moved to where the pressure is slightly less, for example the southwest and Midlands.

“There are particular complex patients with specialist critical care needs who can be safely moved, allowing hospitals in London and the southeast to look after more Covid patients that, at the moment, just keep arriving.

We know there are some patients that can be moved to where the pressure is slightly less, for example the southwest and Midlands."

“If we get full spread of that variant throughout the country then it could cause real issues for many northern and Midlands hospitals who are still full with patients from the second surge in the autumn.”

Figures show intensive care units in England are at their busiest for a decade with an average of 3,425 beds being occupied in the week up to December 27.

NHS England figures showed 3,496 intensive care beds were occupied on Christmas Eve – more than the 3,456 in January 2015 following a severe flu outbreak.

One hospital in North London doesn’t have enough critical care beds with ventilators – leaving doctors with the heartbreaking decision of who to choose to admit to intensive care.

One doctor said they assess which patient has the “best chance of surviving” before making the decision.


Meanwhile, in East London, bosses at the Royal London Hospital told staff it was in “disaster mode” and unable to provide “high-standard critical care”.

Staff at Guy’s at St Thomas’s NHS Foundation Trust also face “horrifying” decisions.

Dr Megan Smith told ITN: “It’s not a position any of us ever want to be in, and we’re used to making difficult decisions as doctors, but deciding the outcome of, effectively a competition for a ventilator, is just not what anyone signed up for.

“In terms of the emotional trauma for those individuals, it’s horrifying. We shouldn’t be having to do it, but we are.”

London’s air ambulance staff have been forced to treat patients outside hospitals and another doctor described how whole families are dying on wards.

One doctor at a North London hospital said: “There were patients on the ward who needed to go to intensive care.

“You’re just praying that they last until there’s a bed or that they start to turn around. There’s nothing else you can do.”

Another doctor added: “We could be like Lombardy by next week. There is a high likelihood we’re going to see a disaster.”


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