Boris Johnson says hospitals face oxygen shortage as Covid-19 reaches ‘perilous moment’

Boris Johnson made the comment while visiting a vaccination centre in Bristol (Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

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NHS hospitals are facing an oxygen shortage as the Covid-19 pandemic reaches a "perilous moment", Boris Johnson has said.

During a visit to a vaccination centre in Bristol, the PM said hospitals were seeing high demand for intensive care and ventilated beds.

He said: "It's a race against time, because we can all see the threat that our NHS faces, the pressure it's under, the demand in intensive care units, the pressure on ventilated beds, even the shortage of oxygen in some places.

"This is a very perilous moment," Johnson said. "The worst thing now for us is to allow success in rolling out a vaccine programme to breed any kind of complacency about the state of the pandemic."

NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens told MPs that “in many parts of the country” coronavirus “is spreading out of control”.

He told the Commons Public Accounts Committee: “In London perhaps one in 30 people has the coronavirus, in parts of London it may be twice that number.

“If you look across other regions of England the issue is that coronavirus is once again on the rise.

“In Merseyside in just the last week there has been a further 50% increase in the number of Covid hospitalisations.

“So this is a very serious moment for the country and for the National Health Service.

“It’s worth remembering that this affects all ages – a quarter of the Covid admissions to hospital right now are for people aged under 55.”

He warned hospitals were under pressure
(Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

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Earlier, a NHS hospital warned staff that its oxygen supply had reached a "critical" level.

Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust said in a letter to staff that the amount of oxygen used to treat patients at Southend Hospital should be reduced.

It comes as NHS leaders warned that supplies had run low in other areas.

The Southend document, shown to the BBC, said: "We have reached a critical situation with oxygen supply.

"It is imperative we use oxygen safely and efficiently.

"All patients should have a target saturation of 88-92%. Patients with a saturation above 92% which are on oxygen should have their oxygen weaned within the target range.

"I can assure all that maintaining saturations within this target range is safe and no patient will come to harm as a result.

"It is imperative that this is acted on immediately."

Yvonne Blucher, managing director of Southend Hospital, said: "We are experiencing high demand for oxygen because of rising numbers of inpatients with Covid-19 and we are working to manage this.

"The public can play their part by staying home and, where they cannot, following the 'hands, face, space' advice to cut the spread of the virus."

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A doctor at a London hospital said colleagues had been asked to conserve oxygen levels to ensure they did not run out.

"We've been told to stagger breaks off of the non invasive ventilation and make sure we're aiming for correct O2 targets to conserve (it)," she said.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts in England, said there was "huge pressure" on stocks because giving patients extra oxygen was a "key part" of coronavirus treatment.

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