A specialist intensive care unit for critically-ill children has been closed down at Stoke-on-Trent’s main hospital – to free up beds for coronavirus patients.
The sick youngsters have been transferred to intensive care units at Birmingham Children’s Hospital from this week to leave parents facing an 88-mile round trip between the two centres.
The move has freed up eight beds which will now be used for adult intensive care patients who require ventilation after contracting coronavirus.
It comes as the Royal Stoke University Hospital has already stopped treating patients with ‘minor’ injuries or illnesses at its accident unit and suspended breast screening programmes.
A total of nine patients have so far died at the Royal Stoke after testing positive for COVID-19.
University Hospitals of North Midlands (UHNM) NHS Trust – which runs the Royal Stoke and Stafford’s County Hospital – has issued a statement following the latest changes.
A spokesman said: “The NHS has well-established escalation protocols to respond to situations such as the coronavirus outbreak and UHNM has been advised on what steps we can take at a local level.
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“We have robust emergency planning procedures and senior clinicians have spent the last few weeks ensuring there is a plan ready to enact. We will be making some incredibly difficult decisions as part of that plan as certain elements are enacted but these are necessary to ensure that our hospitals, patients and staff remain as safe as possible.
“The paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) based at Royal Stoke ceased to operate from Monday, March 30 as a PICU with all children temporarily transferred to Birmingham Children’s Hospital which will continue to receive our patients for the duration of the virus.
“This will ensure that the Royal Stoke unit can be used to care for adult patients requiring ventilation as a result of COVID-19.”