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Power up for winter

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We are expecting one of the most challenging winters we’ve ever faced. While last winter was largely dominated by caring for people with Covid-19, this winter all of us will be impacted by:

  • Meeting Covid-19 and winter pressures, including rolling out vaccinations
  • Managing front door demand in urgent and emergency care
  • Recovering routine services and reduce the number of patients waiting for care
  • Looking after our own health and wellbeing to stay well

Each hospital is developing plans to manage these pressures, building on what we’ve learnt over the duration of the pandemic as well as our understanding of what usually gets us through winter.

We are also committed to progressing our long term objectives:

What can you expect this winter?


We expect there will be more patients coming to our hospitals with Covid-19 needing critical care, although not to the same levels as last winter. We are accelerating recruitment plans and to protect your wellbeing and our elective activity, we will only redeploy staff as a last resort.

  • The Royal London: will open up to 15 critical care beds to meet demand. Beyond that would mean we are in a “high pressure” scenario requiring group-wide redeployment.
  • Whipps Cross and Newham: small number of additional critical care beds will open to meet demand
  • St Bartholomew’s: will be reserved for the most critically ill patients requiring ECMO heart and lung treatment.

Across north-east London, more than eight out of ten Covid patients in intensive care are unvaccinated. We are also concerned that approximately one in five staff are also unvaccinated; we are among the lowest vaccinated trusts in the country. With the added threat of flu and other respiratory illnesses this winter, it’s more important than ever to keep yourself safe from both Covid-19 and ‘flu. We will continue to vaccinate staff and our local communities, including starting a new monoclonal antibody service.

Urgent and emergency care

Our emergency departments were busier than usual over the summer, and in September recorded 5% more attendances than two years ago, with 10% more walk-ins.

Each hospital is working with local partners to manage rising demand for urgent care and avoid unnecessary admission. We’re also investing £3m to:

  • open 12 extra beds at Newham
  • employ extra specialist registrars at Whipps Cross for faster decision-making
  • increase capacity at St Bartholomew’s to operate on heart and respiratory patients at weekends.  

We are also working with BHRUT to jointly improve performance for the benefit of patients across north-east London. 

Elective recovery

We have over 100,000 people currently waiting for an outpatient treatment decision, procedure or operation. We are bringing down the number of people waiting more than 104 weeks (now 591, mainly in paediatric dentistry and targeted by Operation Tooth Fairy) and people waiting more than 52 weeks (down from over 16,000 in April to 8,980 in September).  

We want to make sure no one waits more than two years after March 2022, no one is waiting more than 52 weeks after December 2022 and fewer patients wait overall.

To protect elective capacity:

  • the Barts Health Orthopaedic Centre at Newham will remain a “green” (Covid-free) site
  • The Royal London has ring-fenced 10 adult and three paediatric theatres
  • we will continue to treat patients in the independent sector for high-volume low-complexity work.

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