Staff at King’s College Hospital were forced to find extra mortuary space for bodies during the worst of the coronavirus crisis, according to a stark review of its pandemic response.
The unprecedented speed and complexity of the crisis means “mistakes will have been made,” admitted the Trust’s top boss in a briefing, who praised “highly-skilled” staff at the Trust for their heroic efforts during the emergency.
The Trust received its first Covid patient on March 3, and patient numbers increased rapidly after, the report today by chief executive Prof Clive Kay reveals.
At the peak, hospitals run by the Trust were dealing with 552 Covid inpatients – with critical care wards battling to save the lives of 102 people.
Tragically, 499 patients at the Trust have died as a result of coronavirus up to June 1.
But more than 2,100 coronavirus patients treated by the Trust were discharged, which Professor Kay called “a testament to the exceptional levels of care King’s staff have provided.”
“The pandemic led to a number of significant challenges which impacted on operational, clinical and workforce activity,” he said.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank staff who have demonstrated incredible resilience, hard work, dedication and skill in how they have responded.”
He added: “Clearly, we have not done everything right, and where this has been the case we plan to reflect on the learning so that we can improve.”
Since May deaths and cases have quickly decreased across the Trust, which runs King’s College Hospital and the Princess Royal.
But the report paints a sharp picture of the extreme challenges faced by doctors and nurses battling the crisis over the past three months, around testing, PPE, and critical care capacity.
While never running out of vital PPE supplies, supply challenges meant certain masks and equipment were hard to find, states the report.
The chief executive praised the “sheer volume” of PPE donations by the local community, saying it was a “welcome solution” to some of the shortages.
Critical care capacity increased by 140 per cent in just five weeks across the hospitals, by requisitioning general wards for use to treat the most seriously ill coronavirus patients.
Staff who struggled with accommodation, because of shielding members of the family, were placed in subsidised hotels by the Trust, says the report.
King’s has also teamed up with South London and the Maudsley to provide psychological support to nurses and doctors who battled on the coronavirus frontline, it reveals.
Professor Kay warned that there will still be challenges ahead, with the potential for “future surges” of coronavirus.
“King’s has been one of the largest treatment centres for COVID-19 in the country, and no doubt this will change the way we deliver services in the future,” he said.
“Our focus now is on restarting as many of our services as possible, whilst ensuring we are prepared for further surges of COVID-19 in the future.
“Although these are clearly difficult times, I am confident in the Trust’s ability to rise to the challenge.”