Key figures within the NHS have warned there is a “potential risk” people will be unable to get an ambulance in their time of need, if pressure on the health service continues to increase.
Intensive care units in London hospitals could be overwhelmed in DAYS, according to leaked predictions in an NHS document.
The capitals hospitals are also less than two weeks away from being completely overwhelmed – even under the “best” case scenario, according to one of London’s most senior doctors.
Many hospitals have been forced to take a dangerous detour from the usual gold standard care already – abandoning one to one care and instead enlisting one nurse to four patients.
The culmination of rising cases, dwindling staff numbers and low morale is set to be a perfect storm to completely exhaust the UK’s healthcare system.
The damning figures come nearly a week after Prime Minister Boris Johnson plunged the country back into lockdown, after a serious spike in cases over the festive period.
But it seems the restrictions may have been too little, too late, as hospital may be forced to withdraw critical care for patients.
One hospital, Darent Valley Hospital in Kent, is at Critcon 4 – is already at this level and is on the highest alert.
An NHS dashboard seen by the Health Service Journal shows that 17 other hospitals are at Critcon 3 – meaning they are at capacity and critical care areas need to be expanded.
It has not reported levels across all regions.
Doctors could be forced to choose which patients to save in a cruel “lottery”, as a whopping 2,600 ICU patients are feared in the coming weeks.
Tracy Nicholls, Chief Executive at the College of Paramedics, said there has been delays of “up to 10 hours” for category three calls in high-pressure areas.
“This year particularly has seen incredible pressure because of the clinical presentation of the patients our members are seeing. They are sicker,” she explained.
She believes there “is a potential risk” to people not being able to get an ambulance if figures continue to rise.
Confidential information presented to NHS England bosses suggests there could be at least 2,300 people in intensive care in London by this time next week, based on current admission rates.
The leaked files, marked “officially sensitive and not for publication or further distribution” predicts that ICU admission rates will have more than doubled.
ICU doctors have already described being close to breaking point, and they could now face having to ventilate TWICE as many patients as at the peak of the first wave.
The documents state that 4,000 more coronavirus patients will be on wards in the capital by next Monday – at 20,000 this will exceed the numbers in beds nationally during the first wave of the pandemic.
Alternate care options are also in short supply, as intensive care units across the country continue to fill up, meaning patients cannot be transferred elsewhere.
NHS England London medical director, Vin Diwakar, told London’s senior doctors that even under the best case scenario, in two weeks hospitals will be overwhelmed.
He explained that even if the number of covid patients grew at the lowest rate considered likely, all measures to manage demand and increase capacity in hospitals were enforced, and the Nightingale hospital was opened – London’s NHS would still be 2,000 beds short by January 19.
“While staff are going the extra mile to care for patients it is crucial that people do everything they can to reduce transmission of the virus,” he said.
As of January 5, the London NHS had an “unmitigated surplus” of just 46 ICU beds, three per cent of its total.
Just over 70 per cent of its ICU beds were occupied by covid positive patients.
The figures suggest senior doctors may have to turn patients away from ICU wards, as they physically cannot cope with demand.
Experienced intensive care doctors have expressed their concerns at how quickly the situation is spiralling out of control.