Covid pressures are mounting across NHS, with some hospitals already cancelling operations
Staff at the trust’s Royal London Hospital, in Whitechapel, have been told the trust could start to take Covid patients from neighbouring London hospitals if numbers continue to grow.
It comes as hospitals across England continue to experience rising numbers of Covid-19 admissions.
In Manchester, hospitals have opened up extra Covid wards and are already transferring patients between hospitals to try and maintain capacity. In the northeast, The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust has told staff it cancelled some operations last week with more expected in coming days.
Across England on Wednesday there were 3,110 Covid patients in hospital, a 45 per cent increase in the past week. In total there were 489 patients in intensive care.
Across London there were 540 Covid patients in hospital on Wednesday, well below the capital’s 7,900 peak in January, but hospital chiefs are expecting a significant increase in coming weeks as infections rise.
Barts Health Trust was at the centre of the capital’s efforts during earlier waves of the virus with its 155 bed intensive care unit hastily constructed in the top two floors of the Royal London Hospital site.
The trust confirmed it was seeking volunteers to be the first to move in the event the trust had to redeploy staff in coming weeks.
It has also had to cancel operations this week after a severe power outage saw lights go out in operating theatres during surgery and staff trapped in lifts. Its maternity ward was closed for a short term.
The trust said it was investigating the cause of the outage, which has now been fixed.
In its contingency plan is for an extra 40 critical care beds to be opened on top of its 121 baseline. This compares to January when it had 221 beds open.
Hospitals in the northwest, a hotspot for Covid infections, are already opening up extra wards to cope with Covid pressure, the Manchester Evening News reported, with hospitals seeing queues outside A&E.
Some NHS trusts sought “mutual aid” from Cheshire and Merseyside in terms of transferring ICU patients to keep some beds free.
Meanwhile, the Health Service Journal has reported operations being cancelled in Newcastle.
An internal message sent to trust staff said: “Last week we cancelled some planned (elective) activity so that we can protect urgent care and have continued to do the same this week as we have many beds closed and lots of patients continuing to come into our emergency department and assessment suite who need to be admitted into hospital.”
The northeast has now seen more Covid infections than anywhere else in the country.
Alistair Chesser, group chief medical officer at Barts Health Trust told The Independent: “We have plans in place for increased numbers of coronavirus patients in the coming weeks if that scenario arises, and we continue to treat those who need access to non-Covid care.
“Our hospitals continue to be segregated into Covid and non-Covid areas and our Queen Elizabeth Unit is ready to open should that be necessary.
“Getting your Covid-19 vaccine remains the best thing you can do to protect yourself and loved ones from coronavirus.”