Royal Brompton Hospital prepares for any second wave of coronavirus

By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter

Medical staff at one of London’s major heart and lung hospitals have made plans in case they are confronted with a second wave of coronavirus.

Bob Bell, the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust’s chief executive, revealed that over the past four weeks, services have returned to pre-Covid levels at the specialist heart and lung hospitals.

The only exception is private work at the Royal Brompton in Chelsea.

He revealed that as of Monday, the trust was caring for seven of the 18 coronavirus patients in hospital in London.

“That’s a pretty high percentage – roughly speaking about 40 per cent of the Covid inpatients.”

He explained “they are all extremely sick” and all need critical care.

But he explained that there were 1,000 patients in hospitals across the country last week.

He said: “London is doing quite well when you look at it in that perspective. We are not out of the woods on this issue. We have to remain ready and vigilant.”

He told the trust’s board: “We are geared to turn the hospital very quickly into a place that could accommodate 77 critical care beds almost within 48 hours, as well as 20 ECMO patients.”

He said many lessons had been learned in how to cope with the pandemic. If it strikes again.

“We do not want to be caught unaware, surprised or in a state of shock  like we were in March – and we were in a state of shock.

“At least this time there is not the shock factor. The question is how do we prepare?”

He said the trust had been looking at equipment, stock and places to care for people who have the virus and those who do not.

And they are also looking at preparing mentally if there is a second wave or flu which can strike in the autumn.

Staff will be encouraged to get the flu vaccine.

He compared it with the way the uncertainty of the 2003 SARS pandemic was approached.

He said: “The difference was how we managed fear. We still had a heightened level of fear and uncertainty. We were dealing completely with the unknown in 2003.

“Now we are really in a state where I do not think we are fearful. We strive to make sure we understand it a bit better. Fear has uncertainties.”

The Brompton is one of five hospitals in England with ECMO machines which oxygenate blood drained from severely ill patients when their lungs are unable to.

Normally the patients who need the specialist equipment are referred from hospitals in north central and north-west London, as well as south west England, Avon and Gloucestershire and parts of the Thames Valley.

It can also treat patients from elsewhere in the UK who need the specialist ECMO care.

And he praised staff at the trust for the way they coped with the coronavirus pandemic.

He said: “Our staff remain amazingly resilient. Absenteeism has never been higher than four per cent.”

Last month’s board papers reported that 700 trust staff were diagnosed with Covid.

Mr Bell said that although many staff were tired, “they carry on with very high morale,” and have faced the challenges of working differently – something demanded by social distancing safety rules.

Pictured top: Royal Brompton Hospital

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