NHS hospitals are in urgent need of ventilators and are approaching full capacity because of the Covid-19 outbreak, which will increasingly force doctors to make tough decisions about which patients to treat, the British Medical Association has warned.
The comments by BMA spokesman and consultant anaesthetist Tom Dolphin come as senior staff at a London hospital told the Guardian they expect beds in its intensive care unit to be full by 30 March, with one source describing its A&E unit as “like a war zone”.
Dolphin, who works at Imperial College London, said some hospitals in London, such as Northwick Park, which was forced to declare a “critical incident” last week after running out of critical care beds, are already struggling with the number of patients.
“Like any epidemic, there are hotspots. Some hospitals have had to transfer patients out to other intensive care units,” he told PA Media, adding: “We’re going to get to the point where we are really running out of capacity and that transfer ability is going to be difficult to do anyway because nowhere else will have anywhere either.”
Dolphin said that as the number of Covid-19 patients escalated, doctors would be forced to make decisions over who would benefit the most from ventilation and intensive care.
“We’re going to find ourselves at the point where decisions are going to get harder and harder,” he said. “We’re going to have limited resource, and rather than being able to offer it to everybody who needs it, we are probably going to have to prioritise between the people who are going to benefit from it as well.”
NHS staff have expressed concern about a shortfall of ventilators and correct protective personal equipment (PPE), with photographs circulating of staff creating their own makeshift items, including with clinical waste bags. Dolphin said their concerns were real.
He said his own hospital was “struggling” with supplies of PPE. “It’s happening everywhere,” he said. “The government says it’s coming but it’s not all out there. It’s in very short supply.”Read More…..