Plans for some Kent and Medway coronavirus patients, plus staff, to be transferred to the London Nightingale hospital will only be used if capacity is reached across the county.
Currently East Kent hospitals, which include QEQM in Margate, William Harvey Hospital in Ashford and the Kent & Canterbury, still have good capacity and the Kent & Medway Clinical Commissioning Group says latest planning assumptions are that social distancing is having a positive impact on pushing back and lowering the coronavirus infection rate peak.
The lowering means Kent’s health system is expected to be able to manage demand for Covid-19 hospital care within its own hospitals. If pressures become too high at one site then there may be transfers or redirects between hospitals within Kent and Medway.
However, contingency plans are being put in place to use beds at the Nightingale hospital in London if needed.
Patients receiving ventilation/oxygen support would be transported by South East Coast Ambulance Service (Secamb). The CCG is working with Secamb to ensure there is sufficient capacity in place and says this is being kept under review. The Kent and Medway health system is also working with the military which can be brought in if necessary.
Currently the priority is addressing the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) with the CCG co-ordinating mutual aid across Kent and Medway and working to improve the regular delivery of fresh supplies.
An email from East Kent Hospitals Trust chief executive Susan Acott says ventilation capacity has been doubled across its sites and Covid-19 activity has been ‘stable.’
On the issue of PPE Ms Acott says: “Our supply of PPE has been inconsistent in time and volume and variable in terms of content. Getting the PPE out to the organisation is a daily challenge. Through hour by hour management of PPE, mutual aid between organisations, and sourcing form different suppliers, we have not run out.
“We do require staff to work to the Public Health England guidelines for PPE which means staff can only have what they need. Our staff are understandably anxious and want the highest level PPE they can have. Our supply only permits us to issue what people need.”
The details follow a request for information from county councillor Karen Constantine, who sits on the health overview committee at KCC.
She said more information is needed around PPE supply, including how many weeks or days’ worth of stock there is, whether staff are able to withdraw if the do not have the equipment and whether the CCG is also supplying PPE to the care sector.
Cllr Constantine said details on what testing there will be for NHS and social care staff are also needed.
She said: “I would like to add my sincere thanks to all NHS and social care staff, key workers, shop workers and volunteers who are keeping us all going through these most difficult circumstances.
“However, the role of a councillor is to scrutinise and hold decision makers to account. It is incumbent on councillors to do that now. Our local democracy has been necessarily suspended due to coronavirus but that shouldn’t mean we don’t ask pertinent questions and hold decision makers to account, especially given that our Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee is not functioning.
“I have written directly to the Accountable Officer for Kent and Medway, Wilf Williams for an update.
“I remain concerned that staff do not have sufficient PPE. I still have staff contacting me who are saying they don’t have the right type or sufficient PPE.”
In the daily public briefing from government yesterday (April 20) Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “We are receiving shipments of PPE regularly from suppliers in the UK and abroad.
“We’re working to resolve the Turkish shipment of PPE as soon as possible, following some unexpected delays at the weekend. We have unloaded a shipment of 140,000 gowns from Myanmar. And we are, of course, continuing to pursue every possible option for PPE procurement.”
Some 2,400 positive coronavirus tests have been confirmed in Kent (excluding Medway which has recorded 478). This figure only represents those who have been tested and not all of those who have symptoms.
East Kent Hospitals have recorded 123 deaths of those testing positive for Covid-19 and being treated within its hospitals. As of April 17, 129 people have been discharged from the Trust’s hospitals having sufficiently recovered from Covid-19.
The East Kent Hospitals Trust is one of the largest in the country with five hospitals and community clinics serving a local population of around 695,000 people.
Across the UK, as of yesterday,16,509 coronavirus deaths had been recorded, however this number is only for those who had tested positive and were being treated in hospitals. It does not include deaths in private homes or care and other settings.
However Chief Scientific Adviser Professor Dame Angela McLean says the number of new confirmed infections is now flattening out.