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London hospitals cancel operations to free up staffing as critical care beds fill up


London’s hospitals are already beginning to run out of critical care beds ahead of the Christmas relaxation of rules – which is expected to increase cases further, a leaked NHS briefing has warned.

The update on the situation in the capital comes as major hospitals have already started to cancel operations for other patients in order to find enough staff to deal with the rise in patients as NHS trusts open up extra surge capacity.

More operations are expected to be cancelled in hospitals across London, with staff warned they could be redeployed at short notice.

On Wednesday, there were a total of 2,289 coronavirus patients in London hospitals, an increase of 2 per cent on the day before. But the numbers of coronavirus patients in critical care beds jumped 8.6% in a single day, increasing from 302 to 345 patients on Wednesday, while an additional 900 people who have tested positive were receiving oxygen.

Across London, there were just 49 adult critical care beds available on Wednesday. In total there were 904 beds occupied, 328 by patients with COVID-19. This meant the capital’s total critical care bed occupancy rate was almost 95%.

Although the number of patients is much lower than it was the first wave, many hospitals are still treating routine and non-Covid patients – meaning they are struggling to staff critical wards and keep other services running.

A briefing for NHS managers warned them: “A reduction of elective [routine] activity is likely to be needed in line with increasing acute activity.”

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Source: The Independent, 17 December 2020

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