Covid patients ‘compete for ventilators’ in overwhelmed London intensive care wards where docs face 'horrifying' choices

CORONAVIRUS intensive care patients are in "competition" for ventilators amid a rise of cases in London, a doctor has warned.

It comes as figures show a continuing shortage of ICU beds across the country despite hundreds more having been made available to keep up with demand.

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Despite restrictions remaining in place across much of the country, recent weeks have seen coronavirus cases continue to rise.

The worst-affected areas have been London and the southeast, where seven-day infections rates stand at around 800-1,100 cases per 100,000 population, as compared to a UK-wide average of 401.

There is also concern of a further rise in cases in the coming weeks after the mixing of families over Christmas and amid the spread of the new strain of the virus.

Speaking to ITN, Dr Megan Smith, of Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital Trust, discussed the current shortfall in critical care capacity across London.

"It's not a position that any of us want to be in, and we're used to making difficult decision as doctors, but deciding the outcome of – effectively – a competition for a ventilator is just not what anyone signed up for," she said.

"And in terms of the emotional trauma to those individuals, it's horrifying."

Data from NHS England shows that, in the final week of December, there were 828 more patients in ICUs across England than in the same week last year.

In the same week, there were only 743 additional beds available.

Of 18 hospital trusts in the capital, two saw their ICU wards reach 100 percent capacity, while another 11 reached 90 percent, MailOnline reports.

Speaking yesterday, the head of University College London Hospitals Trust warned it was on the brink of only treating coronavirus patients.

“This is much more than we had in March and April,” Professor Marcel Levi told the Guardian.

A leaked memo from management at the Royal London Hospital also said the facility was in "disaster mode", adding: "We are no longer providing high standard critical care, because we cannot."

The NHS has now said that London's Nightingale hospital at the Excel Centre has been reopened and is ready to admit patients.

But Dr Smith warned that January and February are set to be "the most difficult and awful months that most healthcare workers will have faced ever in their careers".

"We're already… higher than the peak that we had back in March and April," she said.

"[And] the patients that we're seeing now were infected two or three weeks ago.

"So the patients that we will see as a result of the relaxation of the rules around Christmas, and people just not necessarily observing the rules properly as well, we'll see them in two or three weeks time."

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