United Kingdom

Covid UK: London buses turned into ambulances to ease strain on NHS

Two London buses have been converted into ambulances to help ease the strain on the NHS in the hard-hit capital as Covid deaths continue to soar. 

The single-decker buses can carry four patients each and have been kitted out with all vital equipment including infusion pumps, oxygen masks and monitors. 

Bus firm Go-Ahead converted the buses in the hope the NHS could use them to transport patients to the newly-reopened Nightingale hospital at London's ExCeL centre. 

NHS hospitals in London have been under enormous pressure since the emergence of a highly-infectious mutant Covid strain which spread rapidly across the country.

Medics have reported having to 'triage' patients to decide who should get critical care - with many fearing the situation could worsen.

It is hoped that the buses will help take away some of the strain, but they are not accredited to the NHS.

Two London buses (one pictured) have been converted into ambulances to help ease the strain on the NHS in the hard-hit capital as Covid deaths continue to soar

Seats have been removed to maximize space in the electric vehicles, which the firm hopes will be fully-staffed by PPE-clad NHS doctors and nurses and St John Ambulance first-aid volunteers who have all had a Covid vaccine. 

The onboard equipment is charged through the buses' batteries, The Guardian reports.

All medics will be from the Specialist Retrieval and Intensive Care Transfer Service (Sprint).

The service was set up at the start of the pandemic to transport seriously-ill patients from one intensive care unit to another to ensure none were overwhelmed.

They will initially transport patients to the newly reopened Nightingale hospital at London's ExCeL arena (pictured) to get supportive and rehabilitative care prior to being discharged

They will initially transport patients to the newly reopened Nightingale hospital at London's ExCeL arena to get supportive and rehabilitative care prior to being discharged. Pictured: A London bus which has not been converted

The ExCeL centre in Newham, East London, has been set up as a giant mass vaccination centre and facility for patients recovering from coronavirus.  

An NHS London spokesperson said: 'These buses have not been commissioned by the NHS.'

The UK today recorded another 1,290 deaths, up 3.4 per cent on the same day last week. 

Random swabbing of 142,000 people between January 6 to 15 found 'no evidence' of a decline in infection levels — despite an array of promising data showing exactly the opposite. The graph shows the test positivity rate for every day of the study

The Imperial College London study found that 1.58 per cent of people in England were infected with coronavirus in that 10-day spell — the equivalent of almost 900,000 people. The graph shows the general trend across each time period the study has been carried out for, with the red line pointing upwards in the most recent week

Despite the country's ever-growing death toll, Department of Health statistics also showed the UK's second wave is continuing to fade away as a result of the lockdown. 

Officials recorded a further 37,892 infections today, down more than a fifth on last Thursday.  

And Cambridge University researchers had estimated that the R rate - the average number of people each infected person passes the disease onto - may have dipped to 0.6 in London and the South East.

But last week the Cambridge team said R in London and the South East was as low as around 0.6. In a report the university's Medical Research Council Biostatistics Unit estimated it had fallen to 0.61 in London and 0.64 in the South East

The Imperial College London team also revealed how test positivity rates varied across each region of England over the study period, with rates falling in the East and South West and plateauing in London

It found that mobility data suggested people were moving around more since the start of January, meaning even tougher restrictions may be necessary

But this appears to contradict a mass-testing survey which found that infection numbers appeared to plateau and even rise at the start of January.

England's third national lockdown started on January 5 and is expected to last at least until the end of February while the NHS scrambles to vaccinate 13.9million of the nation's most vulnerable people against Covid-19.

Imperial College London's REACT-1 study, which swab-tested 142,000 people across England for coronavirus between January 6 and 15 – the first 10 days of the lockdown – found that 1.6 per cent of them were positive. 

The experts also estimated that the national R rate is 1.04, meaning the epidemic is still increasing in size and the number of people in hospitals would continue to rise until transmission could be brought under control.

One of the scientists running the study, Professor Steven Riley, said yesterday: 'There's no evidence that infection prevalence is decreasing at present, even 10 days into lockdown. The main health implication of this is that we can't expect levels of daily deaths to drop and we can't expect the number of Covid inpatients to drop.'

The Imperial College London experts showed that cases were still highest in London between January 5 and 15, followed by the West Midlands, South East and East of England

Experts behind the REACT-1 study also revealed how test positivity rates varied between age groups for each region, over the last three rounds of testing

Earlier this month, doctors in London said that a critical shortage of beds meant some hospitals were implementing emergency guidelines to prioritise treatment for patients with the best survival chances.

This means younger patients who are more-likely to survive will be offered critical care over the elderly, who are less likely to survive.

And intensive care medics on Britain's Covid frontline are 'extremely worried' that case totals will keep increasing until the NHS 'simply won't be able to cope with it' as Britons keep flouting lockdown.

Dr Katharina Hauck, from the faculty of medicine at Imperial College London, said: 'Hospitals in London are overwhelmed, which is a dangerous situation for all patients requiring urgent care ... Sadly, some hospitals are now forced to follow ... emergency triage of all patients requiring critical care.

'Applying this guidance effectively means that patients under the age of 65 who are not frail will be prioritised over elderly and frailer patients for critical care. 

And the team also offered a heat map showing where outbreaks have grown or shrunk between the last two recent rounds of testing

'Frail patients would be cared for in general wards with less intensive care.'

Data shows just 30 per cent of people exhibiting Covid symptoms are actually staying at home, claiming work, caring responsibilities or the need to buy supplies force them out the house.  

Intensive care consultant Professor Rupert Pearse - who works at the Royal London Hospital in the hard-hit capital - said Britons are not following the rules like they were 'in the first wave' putting enormous pressure on the already-overwhelmed health service.   

Professor Pearse told Radio 4's Today Programme: 'I'm very worried that we've reached the peak and we're really not seeing the kind of behaviour that we saw in the first wave. 

'And I, and many of my colleagues in medicine, are extremely worried that this third wave is going to carry on rising and rising and that we'll reach a point that the NHS simply won't be able to cope with it.' 

He earlier tweeted: 'Normally we have three intensive care consultants (senior doctors) working on our intensive care unit at any one time. Today we have ten, each leading an entire ICU team.

'The response is inspirational but the need is just awful. So please, hands, face, space. Help us help you.' 

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