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Without enough specialist staff, critical care beds are useless | Charlotte Summers

Somehow, this winter the NHS will need to look after Covid patients without undermining other services

In 2020 there have been announcements of the expansion of critical care capacity across the NHS, while at the same time headlines have detailed stories of hospitals running out of critical care beds. And this week dire warnings have emerged from places such as Manchester that the increase in Covid patients will soon mean there are no spaces left. So do we have enough beds or not? Like so many things in life, it is more complex than it might at first seem.

A critical care bed is so much more than just a bed. To provide critical care requires physical bedspaces with the right infrastructure, equipment and staff – consultants, junior doctors, physiotherapists, nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists, speech and language therapists, dieticians, clinical psychologists, ward clerks, data analysts and many more. Increasing the number of physical bedspaces, or the amount of available equipment, is the easy part. The staff are what really matter.

Related: Alarming new data shows the UK was the ‘sick man’ of Europe even before Covid | Richard Horton

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