The U.K.’s National Health Service isn’t facing an oxygen shortage nationally — but some hospitals may need to transfer COVID-19 patients for oxygen treatment, Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted Tuesday.
Hancock’s comment came in response to a question by Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth in the House of Commons on whether he could guarantee supplies don’t run out.
“The limitation is not the supply of oxygen itself,” Hancock replied. “It is the ability to get it … through the physical oxygen supply system within hospitals.”
“That essentially becomes a constraint on an individual hospital’s ability to take more COVID patients,” he added, “because the supply of oxygen is essential for the treatment of people with COVID-19 in hospital.”
He said it meant one hospital may need to transfer patients to another for treatment if it comes under pressure.
“So … there is no constraint that we are anywhere near on the national availability of oxygenated beds,” he said. But he said he accepts that sometimes transfers are “occasionally [needed] across the country.”
Ashworth’s question followed reports this week that some hospitals’ oxygen supplies are under pressure from soaring demand.
In a document shared with the BBC from the Mid and South Essex Hospitals Foundation Trust, staff were told that the oxygen supply had “reached a critical situation,” and they were advised to carefully adjust oxygen levels for some patients to ensure supplies are used “efficiently and safely.”
UK’s Hancock: National oxygen supplies aren’t running short The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ Politico.