London hospital declares 'critical incident' after being overwhelmed with coronavirus patients - report

Will Taylor
News Reporter
Northwick Park Hospital has reportedly been overwhelmed by coronavirus patients. (PA Images)

A hospital was reportedly overwhelmed by patients diagnosed with coronavirus infection and had to declare a “critical incident”.

The Health Service Journal has reported that a message to staff at Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow said there is no critical care capacity while a senior director described the situation as “petrifying”.

The trust which runs the hospital has since contacted Yahoo News UK to say that its critical incident has been stood down.

The message seen by HSJ said: “I am writing to let you know that we have this evening declared a ‘critical incident’ in relation to our critical care capacity at Northwick Park Hospital. This is due to an increasing number of patients with COVID-19.

“This means that we currently do not have enough space for patients requiring critical care.

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“As part of our system resilience plans, we have contacted our partners in the North West London sector this evening to assist with the safe transfer of patients off of the Northwick Park site.”

The London North West University Healthcare Trust said: We can confirm that our critical incident status has been stood down.

“Critical care capacity for patients with coronavirus is being organised on a cross-London basis so that hospitals and organisations work together to deliver the best possible care for patients and that is what has happened in this case.

“This kind of coordinated, flexible response is one of the NHS’s strengths but with staff pulling out all the stops they need the public to play their part too, by following the expert guidance on washing your hands, staying at home and using health services responsibly.”

The report comes as doctors warned ministers that NHS is not prepared to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

One told the Guardian: “I may be OK – I’m young and healthy – but I can’t bear the thought of infecting other patients with a disease that could kill them.

“And that is the risk, without proper PPE (personal protective equipment). It’s terrifying; it’s indescribable.”

Another, a consultant physician in respiratory medicine and critical care, warned that hospitals were looking into procedures for deciding which patients with the virus will be given ventilators, which are lacking in the health service.

Countries with confirmed cases of coronavirus. (PA graphics)

“It will be tough, and that’s why it’s important that you know that two or more consultants will make the decisions,” Rahuldeb Sarkar told Reuters.

A paper from Imperial College has recommended social distancing as a way of suppressing the virus is one of the most critical actions a government can take to ensure the health service is not overwhelmed.