Coronavirus patients 'turned away from NHS Nightingale due to lack of ICU nurses'

21 April 2020, 21:19

The NHS Nightingale is having to turn away patients, it has been reported
The NHS Nightingale is having to turn away patients, it has been reported. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

More patients have been turned away from the NHS Nightingale in London than have been treated there due to staffing shortages, it has been reported.

The Nightingale was set up in a little under two weeks to help deal with the growing numbers of Covid-19 patients.

At its peak, the Nightingale is supposed to be able to cater for up to 4,000 intensive care patients at a time, but according to The Guardian, since being opened on 3 April 50 people have been turned away.

The first patients were allegedly turned away on 9 April just two days after the first patients were admitted.

As of Monday, only 41 patients have been treated at the centre - of which four have sadly died, seven have been discharged to hospitals for less-critical care, and 30 are still receiving treatment in the Nightingale.

According to documents from the NHS, which have been seen by the newspaper, a transfer of 30 patients was cancelled "due to staffing issues". All those who were on the list were severely ill and on ventilators.

Medics seen in PPE outside the vast centre
Medics seen in PPE outside the vast centre. Picture: PA

The main problem with staffing levels is the number of critical care nurses which are needed, all of which are currently working on frontlines in other hospitals.

A staff member said: "There are plenty of people working here, including plenty of doctors. But there aren’t enough critical care nurses. They’re already working in other hospitals and being run ragged there.

"There aren’t spare people (specialist nurses) around to do this. That’s the problem. That leads to patients having to be rejected, because there aren’t enough critical care nurses."

But NHS London say the hospital is part of a "network of critical care which is currently coping well with how it is staffed at the moment".

A spokesperson told LBC News there was "plenty of surge availability in other London hospitals."

They added: "The staff at the Nightingale haven’t come from nowhere and they’re not stood around waiting for loads of patients to come in.

“Most of the staff at the Nightingale already work at other London hospitals and as a London wide system, if there is a need for surge staff will go from hospitals to the Nightingale.

The Nightingale was set up inside the London ExCel centre to deal with the virus
The Nightingale was set up inside the London ExCel centre to deal with the virus. Picture: PA

“It may be the case that a hospital wants to transfer some patients out, but it doesn’t mean that the first place that patient should go is the Nightingale.

"A lot of patients are much better off staying in a normal hospital".

On the topic of critical care nurses they added: "The critical care nurses are currently working in London hospitals. If there is a surge in the next couple of days then staff will removed around to cover that.

“They’re confident that the staffing exists if they need to flex it like that.”

When it was created, it was hoped the NHS Nightingale would be able to take the pressure off overstretched hospitals in the capital which are coping with the influx of patients.

But some hospitals have already had to sound the alarm on just how much pressure they are under.

In March, Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow declared a "critical incident" after running out of intensive care beds and in April Watford Hospital did the same, signalling patients should avoid the hospitals "at all costs" due to lack of beds.

Northwick Park is among the hospitals to have transfers to the Nightingale blocked, along with The Royal Free hospital, in Camden, St Mary’s, the Royal London and North Middlesex.

When asked about the reports of the Nightingale having to turn away patients due to lack of staff, a spokesperson said: "The most important point about staff at the Nightingale is that thanks to their care and expertise, patients in that hospital are being successfully treated, discharged and ultimately having their life saved."

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