Nurse Shortage Forces London Coronavirus Hospital to Turn Away ‘Life or Death’ Patients

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 30: A general view of the NHS Nightingale hospital at the Excel on March 30, 2020 in London, England. The field hospital will initially contain 500 beds with ventilators and oxygen and will have the capacity to eventually hold up to 4,000 COVID-19 patients. (Photo by …
Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Internal National Health Service (NHS) documents seen by a British newspaper have revealed that London’s emergency coronavirus field hospital has turned away critically ill patients as a result of a shortage of critical care nurses.

The 4,000-bed Nightingale hospital in London has turned away more coronavirus patients than it has treated, as some 50 people have been denied care at the facility. Yet, the hospital has only treated 41 patients since it was opened.

Of the 50 people who were turned away, 20 were denied access to the facility due to medical grounds as they were “too unwell to transfer”, but an additional 30 patients were denied entry as a result of “staffing issues”, according to documents seen by The Guardian.

A staff member at the Nightingale told the paper that “there are plenty of people working there” but that the hospital lacked the needed amount of critical care nurses, who are “being run ragged” in other hospitals throughout the capital.

The Nightingale rejected the transfer of over 30 patients from Northwick Park Hospital, which declared a “critical incident” last month as it was overwhelmed with coronavirus patients.

The Royal Free Hospital, St Mary’s, the Royal London, and the North Middlesex hospitals have all had transfers to the field hospital blocked as well.

Officials for the country’s socialised medical system claim that the fact that the field hospital established at the ExCeL Centre currently remains largely empty is a sign that the government’s pandemic plan is working.

“It’s routine for transfer requests to be turned down if a receiving trust doesn’t think they are the best placed to receive them, and there is ample capacity in other hospitals across the capital,” NHS England said per The Telegraph.

“Nightingale’s staffing model was always designed to be flexible based on demand across the city so that it doesn’t take staff away from other trusts unnecessarily,” the statement added.

This claim was refuted by the head of the NHS in London, Sir David Sloman, who oversaw the construction of the Nightingale hospital.

Last week, Sloman wrote to the NHS requesting that 200 doctors and nurses be transferred to the field hospital to lessen the strain on critical care units throughout London.

To date, the UK has recorded some 17,337 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus. However, an analysis conducted by the Financial Times suggests that the real death toll may be as high as 41,000. The disparity in the number of deaths comes as a result of the government not counting deaths outside of hospitals.

Follow Kurt on Twitter at @KurtZindulka

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