Critical Care patients transferred from South East to region with lowest ratio of critical care beds

Last March Owl pointed out that the South West has the lowest number of critical care beds per head of population. It also has the oldest population (so highest expected mortality).

Modelling at the time suggested we, in the South West, needed six times more beds than currently exists in the region (600 per cent), i.e. we have least slack. These metrics  showed that London (surprise, surprise) should be the best equipped to manage the pandemic.

So it is very surprising to hear that London is having to move critical care patients elsewhere and, more particularly, Kent patients have been transferred to Bristol and Plymouth. See:

Kent’s critical care patients are being transferred to Plymouth

Carl Eve www.plymouthherald.co.uk 

Critical care patients from Kent are being transferred to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth.

Patients from the South East are being moved to hospitals in the South West to alleviate pressure, it has been confirmed.

The Health Service Journal (HSJ) recently revealed it had seen a leaked report which suggested requests had been made to transfer patients in need of intensive care from London’s hospitals to Yorkshire, where Covid-19 rates are far lower.

It noted that sources in intensive care had told the HSJ there had been requests in recent days for transfers from London to several major hospitals in Yorkshire, because of a lack of capacity in the capital.

Now it has been confirmed critically ill patients are being moved to Derriford Hospital. The requests so far relate to small numbers of patients.

Sources at the hospital have told PlymouthLive that the South West is taking or preparing to take intensive care patients to lighten the pressure on the South East’s hospitals.

Currently critical care is running at more than 100 percent of capacity across London and the South East.

On Monday night, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) occupancy was at 114 and 113 per cent respectively.

In comparison, the North East and Yorkshire region has 67.6 per cent occupancy while the South West is basking in an occupancy rate of 66.5 percent.

HSJ claim this internal NHS critical care capacity dashboard reveals intensive care unit occupancy as of Monday night (Image: HSJ)

The HSJ reported that it had asked NHS England how many inter-regional transfers had taken place in the last month because of a lack of ICU capacity. It did not respond specifically to this question but said the NHS’ plans to manage “significant pressure” have always included mutual aid to manage admissions.

The statement added: “While the NHS is opening more beds in places like London to care for the most unwell patients, it is vital that people continue to follow government guidance and do everything possible to reduce transmission of the virus.”

The below table, taken from the critical care dashboard data leaked to HSJ, shows critical care occupancy figures for each NHS region as of the evening of December 28:

RegionCritical care occupancy of “standard footprint”% covid-19 patients (“covid load”)
London11462
South East11360
East of England10060
Midlands8457
North West8143
North East and Yorkshire6741
South West6630

In response to questions as to whether patients had been brought to the South West from London and Kent, or if plans were afoot to do so, an NHS spokesperson told PlymouthLive: “The NHS has tried and tested plans in place to manage significant pressure either from high COVID-19 infection rates or non-Covid winter demands and this has always included mutual aid practices whereby hospitals work together to manage admissions.

“While the NHS is opening more beds in places like London to care for the most unwell patients, it is vital that people continue to follow government guidance and do everything possible to reduce transmission of the virus.”

Tonight the BBC has confirmed patients from the South East are being transferred here to Plymouth.