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Number of intensive care beds to be quadrupled as NHS Scotland prepares for coronavirus patients


By Scott Maclennan

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Raigmore Hospital.
Raigmore Hospital.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says NHS Scotland intends to quadruple the number of available intensive care unit beds.

The number of beds will rise to 700, having already doubled to 350.

By repurposing operating theatre anaesthetic machines, that capacity can be extended to 500 intensive care beds while the delivery of more ventilators is expected in the coming weeks.

Currently, the NHS has around 13,000 beds in total but has been able to add 3000 more by reducing the number of delayed discharge patients and postponing non urgent elective care operations.

As many as 300 more could be made available within two weeks by converting the SEC in Glasgow into a temporary hospital able to house up to 1000 patients in total if necessary.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament as MSPs debated emergency legislation introduced to respond to the coronavirus crisis Ms Sturgeon said that as of last night there were 1153 patients with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 in Scottish hospitals.

She said the government is "working at pace" to increase testing capacity, with 3500 tests a day to be delivered over the course of the next month while a new testing lab in Glasgow will be operational within the next two weeks.

She said: “The impact on the NHS is being felt already. We have already seen an increase in intensive care patients with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 from 51 in intensive care this time last week to 147 as of last night and that in itself is an increase from 135 yesterday.

“And unfortunately we do expect that increase to continue for a further two or three weeks at least, but I can advise parliament that we have now achieved our initial target of doubling intensive care capacity in Scotland to 360 beds.

“I can also advise parliament that we are now working to quadruple intensive care capacity to more than 700 beds for Covid-19 patients. To deliver this increase we have ordered ventilators from a range of manufacturers and expect these to arrive over the coming weeks.

“However to bridge any gaps between now and the delivery of new ventilators NHS boards have been working to repurpose operating theatre anaesthetic machines for use as ventilators.

"This is not a long term solution but will allow us over the next week or so to rapidly increase capacity to more than 500 intensive care beds for Covid-19 patients."

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