West London hospitals increase number of beds for sickest coronavirus patients

By Julia Gregory, Local Government Reporter

The number of beds for the sickest patients needing critical care or ventilators is being increased at three west London hospitals as part of the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Imperial College NHS Trust has already more than doubled its usual capacity of 68 critical care beds and ventilators to 143.

It now plans to increase its capacity rapidly by up to another 157 beds at its three main hospitals at Charing Cross in Fulham, Hammersmith and St Mary’s in Paddington.

More than 200 patients with coronavirus have died at the trust’s hospitals over the last month, since the crisis intensified.

The move is part of the NHS’s plan to extend capacity in north west London at hospitals run by Imperial College Healthcare.

This will run together with the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Chelsea and Westminster in Chelsea and West Middlesex University Hospital in Isleworth and the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust which has sites in Chelsea and Hillingdon.

The plan aims to enable care for the more complex patients to be consolidated into the hospitals with the largest existing critical care resource, according to an Imperial trust spokesman.

It also has a demand for extra qualified staff and  health support workers to support the specialist critical care staff and the new staff ratios which NHS England has set.

And the trust said that  “a relatively small number of our staff” were recruited to  join the team at the new Nightingale Hospital at the ExCel Centre in east London created at the exhibition centre.

Because of the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic the trust is also working with other healthcare providers so people can be cared for in the community, instead of in hospital.

It also means there are changes in the neurosurgery clinics which are usually run at St Mary’s and Charing Cross.

Because doctors are being redeployed to work in the expanded critical care units and absences when staff are off sick or self-isolating, the acute neurosurgery services will be concentrated at St Mary’s.

The unit already has the highest demand because the major trauma centre is based there.

The trust estimates that up to 10 patients a week who would normally have emergency neurosurgery at Charing Cross will be treated in Paddington instead.

There will still be critical cover for patients in the Charing Cross acute stroke unit.

The move will also free up some more space at Charing Cross for ventilators or critical care beds.

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