Shortage of hospital beds in London worrisome - GulfToday

Shortage of hospital beds in London worrisome


Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

The coronavirus has not only upturned normal lives, it has also reversed prestigious standings. London was for years considered the go-to destination for ultimate medical treatment. Unfortunately, thanks to COVID-19, that reputation now seems to have taken a hit.

Hospitals are in dire straits, with staff crunch hitting services. Now comes a new menace: a paucity of hospital beds.

London mayor Sadiq Khan, from the opposition Labour Party, said hospital beds in the capital would run out within the next few weeks because the spread of the virus was “out of control”.

“We are declaring a major incident because the threat this virus poses to our city is at crisis point,” Khan said.

The designation of a “major incident” is usually reserved for attacks or grave accidents, notably those likely to involve “serious harm, damage, disruption or risk to human life or welfare, essential services, the environment or national security”.

The United Kingdom recorded its highest daily death toll on Friday since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as London declared a major incident, warning that its hospitals were at risk of being overwhelmed.

Britain has the world’s fifth-highest official death toll from COVID-19 at nearly 80,000.

One in 30 people in Britain’s capital was infected with the virus in the week to Jan. 2, according to the Office for National Statistics.

With a highly transmissible new variant of the virus surging across Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has shuttered the economy and is rushing out vaccines faster than the country’s European neighbours in a bid to stem the pandemic.

“Our hospitals are under more pressure than at any other time since the start of the pandemic, and infection rates across the entire country continue to soar at an alarming rate,” Johnson said in a statement.

“The NHS (National Health Service) is under severe strain and we must take action to protect it, both so our doctors and nurses can continue to save lives and so they can vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as we can.”

Early this year, British healthcare staff had been advised to treat COVID-19 patients without full-length protective gowns due to shortages of equipment, according to a newspaper report.

Almost three million people have now tested positive for the disease in the United Kingdom, which has a total population of around 67 million.

London’s last “major incident” was the Grenfell Tower fire in a high-rise residential block in 2017, when 72 people died.

Khan said there were parts of London where 1 in 20 people had the virus. The pressure on the ambulance service, which was now dealing with up to 9,000 emergency calls a day, meant firefighters were being drafted in to drive vehicles, and police officers would follow.

The Office for National Statistics estimated that 1.1 million people in England had the coronavirus in the week to Jan. 2, the equivalent of one person in 50.

A recent report said Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts in England, remarked a growing number of staff were unable to come to work because they or someone they live with had COVID-like symptoms but could not get tested.

He said hospital bosses were working in the dark as they did not know why there were shortages, how long they were likely to last, how geographically widespread they were nor what priority would be given to healthcare workers.

London should not allow its prestige as a major medical hub to suffer. Steps should be taken to ensure that there is no shortage of hospital beds, specially for virus patients.

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