Hospitals plan expansion for second wave of coronavirus
Health chiefs expect to be treating Covid-19 patients for another 12-15 months
24 May, 2020 — By Tom Foot
NHS chiefs have agreed to double intensive care unit capacity as they plan for a possible second wave of coronavirus.
Hugely expanded critical care units are already being set-up on sites run by the Royal Free and University College Hospital as part of a major shake-up of the north London health map. NHS managers says changes are needed so they can “respond to another surge of Covid patients if necessary”, adding they do not expect the virus to go away before the summer of 2021.
The plans are being drawn up by a new North Central London NHS authority, which in April began managing Camden and Islington’s health service, and is run by former Camden Council chief executive Mike Cooke.
It said in a bulletin to managers: “The numbers of patients requiring specialist care for Covid-related illness and presenting to services with suspected Covid symptoms are gradually reducing, but we expect to be managing Covid-related illness in NCL for at least the next 12-15 months. We also need remain prepared as we may experience further peaks in demand for services.”
“We will need to be flexible so that we can adjust our services depending on the different peaks and troughs of demand. We need to be able to run urgent and planned care in parallel, with the ability to respond to another surge of Covid patients if necessary.”
The main impact on NHS hospitals from the huge surge in coronavirus patient admissions in March was that intensive care units became dangerously over-stretched. Wards normally reserved for patients with other conditions had to be converted to meet the sudden demand.
The chief executive of University College London Hospitals Marcel Levi said in a board report: “There has been agreement that critical care capacity in North Central London needs to be doubled and that the additional capacity should be provided in two hubs – UCLH and the Royal Free. Work is already underway to work on this expansion.”