THE NHS will be transferring nurses from across the country to London to deal with the capital’s “tsunami” of coronavirus patients in the coming days.
Along with this new measure, doctors will asked to sleep on site for up to six-weeks at the new NHS Nightingale hospital.
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The list of unprecedented measures was disclosed to the Guardian after being drawn up by senior officials from NHS England’s London region.
The measures came as the total number of reported deaths in the UK rose to 578.
Doctors brought to the NHS Nightingale hospital in London will be expected to work there for six weeks – working five days non-stop all the while sleeping there on site for the entire time.
The NHS also asked its network of regional chief nurses if they can spare staff, mostly those specialising in intensive work, to work in London during the peak of the pandemic which is due to start early next month.
Other measures will include scrapping limits on the number of patients nurses can look after in intensive care wards and whether ventilators can be used for two people.
NHS Provider’s chief executive, Chris Hopson, said hospitals in London had increased critical care capacity between five and seven-fold in the past few weeks but bosses at those hospitals have been alarmed at how fast those beds are filling up in the capital.
NHS chiefs are worried that the London Ambulance Service is already stretched and that it will struggle to cope with the extra 100 patients a day that is expected to be taken to hospital.
It plans to meet that challenge with 20-25 new vehicles that usually take patients to non-urgent appointments and hire taxis and dial-a-ride services for the people denied their usual transport.
Last week Northwick Park hospital in north-west London declared a “critical incident” after it ran out of space for coronavirus patients.
In the last week military planners worked with the NHS in creating a field hospital in London’s ExCel convention centre.
The centre will hold 4,000 beds equipped with ventilators and oxygen tanks.
Footage that was recorded inside the convention centre revealed that there would be two on-site morgues.
Private hospitals in London have offered to provide 111 critical care beds in order to help the NHS as well as 1,300 “step-down” beds for patients leaving NHS hospitals.
The private hospitals will also supply staff and equipment.
In Scotland a former IBM factory in Glasgow will become Britain’s second crisis hospital as the building has been offered to NHS Scotland.
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In Birmingham, the National Exhibition Centre has 18 exhibition halls bosses say will “stand ready” for when the NHS contacts them about opening another potential field hospital.
Earlier this week on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, a nurse criticised the Government’s preparations for the coronavirus outbreak after revealing she was asked to share protective masks with colleagues.
The NHS worker, identified only as Lorraine, warned that the health service was heading into a ‘war zone’ as the ‘tsunami’ of the pandemic hits.
She revealed her manager had sent staff a message the day before asking the staff to share face masks, as well as filters.
An NHS spokesperson told the Guardian: “Staff in London are at this stage responding to a larger number of patients with confirmed coranavirus than other regions of the country so as well as increasing ‘surge’ capacity across London hospitals, we’re deploying other options too, including new facilities like the NHS Nightingale London and using capacity in the private sector.
“But it remains absolutely vital that this huge mobilisation by the NHS is matched by action from the public which means following medical advice to the letter – please stay at home to save lives.”
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