Boris Johnson has warned “we have a really tough fight ahead of us” as the coronavirus puts immense pressure on the NHS, including a lack of oxygen.
The Prime Minister said the nation was at a “very dangerous moment” fighting the pandemic when a hospital in Essex was ordered to reduce oxygen levels in a “critical situation”.
Mr Johnson said around 2.4 million shocks have now been delivered to around two million people across the UK, with immunity being built by vaccinating the elderly.
“But it’s a race against time because we can all see the threats our NHS is facing, the pressure it’s under, the demand in intensive care units, the pressure on ventilated beds and, in some places, even a lack of oxygen” he told reporters during a visit to a vaccination center in Bristol.
The UK chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty previously warned that the next few weeks will be “the worst” pandemic for the NHS as Britain has not yet reached the peak of the current wave of Covid-19 infections.
When NHS officials warned that some areas were running out of oxygen due to treatment with Covid-19, the NHS Foundation Trust of Mid and South Essex said in a letter to staff at Southend Hospital that they are treating the Patient use should be reduced.
“We have reached a critical situation with the oxygen supply,” said the BBC document.
“We have to use oxygen safely and efficiently.
“All patients should have a target saturation of 88–92%. Oxygen receiving patients above 92% saturation should be weaned from oxygen in the target area.
“I can assure you that it is safe to maintain saturation within this target range and that no patient will be harmed by it.”
Yvonne Blucher, the managing director of Southend Hospital, said: “We have a high need for oxygen due to the increasing number of inpatients with Covid-19 and are working to manage this.”
Meanwhile, a doctor at a London hospital told the PA news agency that colleagues had been asked to lower their oxygen levels to make sure they didn’t run out of air.
“We have been instructed to stop non-invasive ventilation and make sure we are aiming for the correct O2 targets to maintain it,” she said.
Chris Hopson, the executive director of NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts in England, said the pressure on the stocks is “enormous” as providing extra oxygen to patients is a “key element” of coronavirus treatment.
He told the BBC that there were a number of hospitals where this had happened during the first phase of the coronavirus and in the past few weeks “similar things had happened elsewhere”.
“This is the type of problem business leaders and trust teams have to solve every day,” he said.
“When you (a hospital) are bringing your oxygen to absolutely critical levels, you can’t shut down the oxygen system … so effectively that you have to dial it down. In this case, you will probably have to take a patient to the nearest neighboring hospital for a short period of time.
“I can’t tell you how much work has been done over the summer and fall to make sure the people (hospital trusts) are prepared. They knew they would be under pressure if there were more waves, as has now been shown to be the case. “