Every single critical care bed full at hospitals

Royal Free Hospital

The Royal Free London Hospital has no free critical care beds. - Credit: PA Wire / Daniel Leal-Olivas

The Royal Free London hospital trust has almost doubled its critical care beds since November, but is still hitting 100 per cent occupancy amidst the second wave of the pandemic.  

NHS data showed that on January 17, both the Royal Free and the Whittington Health trusts had filled all of their adult critical care beds.  

For the Whittington, it was the second week in a row at 100pc of capacity. Last week, the Royal Free had been at 98 pc.  

The Ham&High reported last week that 200 Royal Free staff had been redeployed to support the hospital’s intensive care units. A critical care consultant said: “There are no more intensive care nurses to be found.” 

Another 250 non-clinical staff had been asked to take on “Covid support roles”.  

The latest figures reveal how much worse the pressure on the trusts has become, compared to when the UK entered its second lockdown in November.  

On November 8, the Royal Free Trust had 59 critical care beds.  

By January 17, the trust had upped the number to 116 – and every single one was taken.  

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The Whittington had 10 critical care beds on November 8. By January 17, it had 15, all of which were occupied.  

The Ham&High revealed last week that the Whittington trust was lining up psychological help for staff.  

The trust’s chief nurse, Michelle Johnson, called the pressure on staff “exhausting, relentless and distressing”. 

Michelle Johnson, chief nurse at the Whittington Hospital. Picture: Whittington Health NHS Trust

Michelle Johnson, chief nurse at the Whittington Hospital, said the coronavirus pandemic was unlike anything else she had seen in her 30-year career, with staff under 'exhausting, relentless, distressing' pressure. - Credit: Whittington Health NHS Trust

Another nurse, speaking on condition of anonymity, called the hospital “a horrible environment to be in”, adding: “People go off sick with the stress... I know some people are leaving. I think people are just tired. Tired, and sort of had enough.” 

The latest NHS data on the overall number of hospital beds occupied by coronavirus patients, from January 19, showed the Whittington trust had 168 Covid-19 inpatients – slightly down on the 185 it had a week earlier.  

However, the figure was still more than twice the 67 coronavirus patients it had been caring for four weeks earlier, on December 22.  

Demand at the Royal Free remained consistent, with 504 coronavirus patients compared to 503 a week before.  

Four weeks earlier, the figure had been 210.