Doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers from the private sector would form part of a major emergency response taskforce that could be deployed at a makeshift 4,000-bed ‘field hospital’ being proposed for London’s ExCeL Centre at the peak of the COVID-19 crisis.
Plans have been drawn up by NHS and public health chiefs which could see the conference and events venue in East London be turned over into a massive critical care unit at the expected peak of the coronavirus epidemic, which could leave thousands fighting for their lives.
Patients with COVID-19 are already filling up existing critical care units in London and the emergency plans could be put into action in four weeks’ time – or less – when hospitals are expected to become overloaded with patients needing urgent, and potentially lifesaving, care.
Health chiefs are worried not just about the ability of existing hospital capacity to cope with COVID-19 patients but they have also been drawing up emergency plans about how to deal with the grim prospect of a huge spike in fatalities – and corpses – that is expected over the coming weeks.
Private and independent sector hospitals across the UK are already working with the NHS as the COVID-19 pandemic overwhelms existing capacity nationally, and especially in London. A major deal was agreed at the weekend which will see private and independent sector hospitals across the country dedicate almost all of their capacity to helping the NHS to tackle the crisis.
But even with that invaluable additional resource – which is being provided at cost and not at a profit by the sector – it is thought that the sheer number of patients that will need critical care in just a matter of days will start to outstrip supply around the capital.
Although the ExCel Centre – which, like most conference and events venues across the country, has cancelled its programme for the coming weeks – is thought to be the most likely location for an emergency ‘hospital’ should one be needed, it is believed that health chiefs have even considered the option of repurposing the massive nearby O2 concert and music venue as the pandemic crisis worsens.
Reuters reports that a team of military planners has already visited the ExCel Centre to determine how it might be able to help the NHS to respond to the outbreak.
Health Insurance & Protection understands that a number of smaller venues around the capital – including sporting arenas and facilities of differing sizes – have also been earmarked as potential locations for emergency use.
Private and independent healthcare sector staff would join colleagues in the military and the NHS as a cross-discipline workforce to staff the additional emergency facilities should – or more likely when – they are needed.
It is thought that any makeshift hospital that is set up to deal with COVID-19 would be NHS-led – rather than military or otherwise – in the first instance.