England only has 15 available beds for adults to treat the most severe respiratory failure and will struggle to cope if there are more than 28 patients who need them if the number of coronavirus cases rises, according to the government and NHS documents.
Ministers have revealed in parliamentary answers that there are 15 available beds for adult extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) treatment at five centres across England. The government said this could be increased in an emergency. There were 30 such beds in total available during the 2018-19 winter flu season.
But an NHS England document prepared in November 2017 reveals the system will struggle to cope if more than 28 patients need the treatment, describing that situation as black/critical.
It suggests that if no beds are available “within the designated and surge capacity” in the UK, they might have to be sourced from other countries, for example, from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.