Published: 20:41, 01 January 2021
| Updated: 21:14, 01 January 2021
Another 20 critically-ill patients will be transferred from Kent hospitals to free up space as shock new figures reveal the scale of the pressure the NHS is under.
Yesterday it was revealed Covid patients had been transferred from Kent to hospitals in locations including Devon, Bristol and Leeds.
Tonight is emerged preparations are being made to transfer another 20 patients as pressure on the NHS locally reaches crisis point.
The Independent has reported bed occupancy at critical care units in Kent and Medway has reached 137% on New Year's Day.
Data for Kent and Medway shows there are 114 patients in critical care - 55 on ventilators - with only 83 beds available on critical care wards.
Some beds have been opened up in other areas of hospitals, but the situation is now at crisis point with nursing ratios at one for every four patients.
A critical care technician told The Independent Kent and Medway was overwhelmed and the situation was worsening.
They added: "The wards are full of Covid and we are running out of oxygen flow and having to make hard decisions on who gets life-saving, non-invasive or invasive ventilation.
"We could admit more people to intensive care but we just don't have the beds available.
"The wards are also busy and we have staff off sick so we cannot get extra staff just to help. Kent is completely overwhelmed."
Palliative care doctor Rachel Clarke, who tweets as @doctor_oxford, posted tonight: "Critically ill Covid patients in Kent are being transported by ambulance and helicopter as far as Bristol, Leeds, Southampton & Portsmouth.
"Oxygen is running out. ICU nursing has gone from 1:1 to 1:4. Please, everyone, take Covid seriously"
A Kent clinician revealed yesterday a critically ill patient in Medway was transferred more than 150 miles away to Bristol; the nearest available space. Another person from Kent was reportedly transferred to the Midlands.
Meanwhile on Monday, two patients at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford were also allegedly transferred about 250 miles to Plymouth in Devon, while other patients from the QEQM in Margate were taken to Southampton hospital, about 150 miles away.
On the same day, a member of staff at East Kent Hospitals Trust shared a photo on Twitter, telling how he and a crew from the Trust's critical care team had transferred a patient five hours away, to a hospital in Plymouth.
The number of Covid cases in the UK has risen by 53,285 today with 613 more deaths.
Adrian Boyle, vice-president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said staff are tired, feel helpless and at risk of burnout.
Dr Boyle added: “We are worried about staff burnout, staff are tired, they have worked really hard over the summer, they have put up with a lot of disruption.
“This time people are frustrated, this is now an entirely preventable disease, we know what we did in spring made a lot of this go away. There’s also now a vaccine.
“The idea that we are dealing with something that can’t be controlled doesn’t wash, this is a preventable disease and we need to be preventing it.”
Dr Boyle said washing hands, wearing face coverings and keeping your distance from others stops the spread of the infection, and he also thanked people for not partying on New Year’s Eve.
The Nightingale hospital in London, which had been decommissioned, is now ready to admit patients again after being 'reactivated'.