• Royal London to receive all ambulances and sickest covid patients 
  • Whipps Cross and Newham need “breathing space” 
  • Other changes across capital reflect continued covid pressure

Barts Health Trust has declared that the sickest covid-19 patients along with emergency care and trauma admissions will be seen at the Royal London Hospital to give other hospitals in the group ‘breathing space’.

Barts is the largest trust in the capital and the fifth largest in England. It operates from five major sites.

Barts has the eighth highest proportion of covid inpatients (47 per cent) of any English trust, and, as of 1 January, the second highest weekly death toll (100) after the neighbouring Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust.   

According to an email sent to staff this week, the Royal London in Whitechapel will be the “main receiving centre for all of the most serious covid cases, as well as trauma and emergency patients”.

“This move will create valuable breathing space at both Whipps Cross and Newham, and enable those hospitals to focus on treating less complex or high-risk cases on behalf of the group,” the email said.

It stressed that “less sick covid patients” could still be treated at Whipps Cross and Newham and they would still take walk-in A&E patients.

“However, as part of the rebalancing the overall workload across the group, Whipps Cross will be able to take more genealogical cases, injuries and urgent surgery that would have previously been done at the Royal London,” it said.

Before this arrangement was formalised, the trust said it managed the local demand on Whipps Cross and Newham by securing regular ambulance diverts to The Royal London.

These changes are part of the trust’s winter escalation plan, it said, as it moves into a “very high pressure phase”.

The trust did not comment when asked by HSJ what pressure this change would have on oxygen levels at the Royal London.

The trust is also opening a large-scale vaccination centre for the public in the ExCel conference centre, which will go live on 11 January.

“It is intended to serve the whole of London, with appointments administered through a national booking system, but we hope it will complement our hospital vaccination hubs and vaccinate some NHS staff too,” the trust said in a website bulletin.

Across the capital, The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital has started accepting more covid admissions amid an increasingly pressurised covid situation in the capital.

The trust said there will be some changes to its services over the coming weeks but it will still continue to provide urgent surgery for specialist tertiary patients, provide services to patients with cancer and those with spinal cord injuries.