Royal Free's critical care beds 98pc full as Covid-19 cases top 500

Royal Free Hospital

Critical care at the Royal Free hospital trust was 98 per cent full by January 10, new data has revealed. - Credit: PA Wire/Daniel Leal-Olivas

The Royal Free hospital trust has asked more than 250 non-clinical staff to take on “Covid support roles”, as the second wave of the pandemic sees almost every bed taken.

Data from January 12 showed 503 of the trust’s inpatients had the virus. Two weeks earlier, it had been 400.

A nurse, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the hospital had tripled its intensive care capacity but staff were still struggling.

She said: “It’s horrendously busy. They've taken over the children’s wards and are turning other spaces into Covid wards.

“In the A&E, almost everybody is coming in with Covid and they are all being brought in by ambulances. There’s a lot more people affected this time. A lot more people in their thirties and twenties. I’m putting them on oxygen.”

On Monday, January 4, almost half of patients delivered by ambulance faced a delay before admission.


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More than 31pc waited 30 minutes to an hour. Another 17pc waited more than an hour.

By Sunday, January 10, the figures had fallen. Just under 16pc were waiting under an hour and 4.5pc were waiting longer.

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But by then, 894 of the trust’s 949 beds were occupied – or 94pc.

They included 113 of its 115 adult critical care beds. 

The trust had already expanded capacity by converting surgical recovery wards into critical care spaces, a source said, but even with these measures, critical care was over 98pc full.

Caroline Clarke, chief executive of the trust, told the Ham&High that 200 staff have been deployed to support the hospital’s intensive care services.

Caroline Clarke, chief executive of the Royal Free Hospital NHS Trust

Caroline Clarke, chief executive of the Royal Free Hospital NHS Trust, said hundreds of staff were working extra shifts, cancelling leave and switching roles to battle the coronavirus second wave. - Credit: Royal Free Hospital NHS Trust

Dr Stephen Ward, a critical care consultant at the trust, told ITV News on Thursday, January 14, staff were under “immense pressure”, adding: “There are no more intensive care nurses to be found.”

Ms Clarke said “many staff” were working extra shifts, cancelling leave and switching roles to help out.

“I would like to say a huge thank you to them and their families for the way they have responded in recent days and weeks,” she added.

“I would urge everyone to continue to stay at home when you can and to observe all the guidelines to help us bring the infection rate under control.” 

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