‘Critical situation’: UK hospital running out of oxygen amid soaring Covid-19 admissions

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Oxygen supplies at a hospital overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients have “reached a critical situation,” with doctors making the decision to reduce the target range for oxygen levels in patients’ blood.

In a document shared with the BBC on Monday, the National Health Service (NHS) said oxygen supplies are critically low at Southend Hospital as doctors battle to keep Covid-19 patients alive.

As a consequence, the hospital has cut the target range for patients’ oxygen levels from 92 percent to a baseline of 88-92 percent. 

“Maintaining saturations within this target range is safe and no patient will come to harm as a result,” the document, which was shared with frontline healthcare workers, reads.  

Yvonne Blucher, the hospital’s managing director, said the NHS was “working to manage” the situation. 

“We are experiencing high demand for oxygen because of rising numbers of inpatients with Covid-19 and we are working to manage this,” she said.

In late December, the North Middlesex University Hospital Trust reported that the sheer number of patients it was treating “was putting a strain” on the oxygen system. 

The Trust claimed its 200 patients were consuming 2,400 litres of oxygen a minute, close to the hospital’s ceiling of 3,000 litres. 

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Earlier on Monday, England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, warned that the UK will go through the “most dangerous time” of the pandemic in the coming weeks. 

These comments were echoed by NHS England’s national medical director, Stephen Powis, who said the pressure on the NHS is “potentially going to get worse” and that it will be months before the vaccination programme begins to have an impact on coronavirus rates. 

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