East London hospitals fill with unvaccinated patients and pregnant women

Unvaccinated pregnant women have had their babies delivered early because their COVID cases were so severe, according to a hospital boss.

Dr Magda Smith, chief medical officer at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Trust (BHRUT), said that most patients being submitted to intensive care with coronavirus had not received a COVID-19 vaccine.

She explained that some of the people most at risk from coronavirus were pregnant women who had not received the vaccine.

She said: “The problem is particularly bad if they’re towards the end of their pregnancy then actually we have to deliver the baby early to be able to look after the woman.

“We saw a few of those women sadly ending up in intensive care because they were getting incredibly sick, it was part of the pregnancy.

“At the beginning of the pandemic when the vaccines started coming, there wasn’t really a strong push for pregnant women to get vaccinated but there absolutely is now.

“Many, many women have had vaccines and it’s really strongly recommended for in pregnancy – ideally before you get pregnant but definitely when you’re pregnant.”

Dr Smith encouraged everyone eligible to get both the coronavirus and flu vaccines to protect the NHS over what is expected to be a busy Christmas period in London hospitals.

BHRUT runs the King George Hospital in Goodmayes and Queen’s Hospital in Romford – the number of people in the two hospitals with COVID-19 doubled in just two weeks at the end of October.

However, the number of patients being treated in intensive care dropped slightly in that time.

Dr Smith said that patients who were not vaccinated were far more likely to need intensive treatment because of a severe case of COVID-19.

She added that even people in their 30s who had not been vaccinated were far more likely to have a serious case of coronavirus than an older patient who had.

She said: “People who are coming in unvaccinated are more likely to go to intensive care and need that level of of care, whereas people who’ve been vaccinated are more likely to be able to be cared for on our specialist respiratory wards, so there is a big difference.

“And it’s not an age thing, actually – so if you’re in your 30s and you haven’t had a vaccine you’re more likely to get a lot sicker.

“So it’s traumatic all round really, and obviously that’s a really challenging decision that our obstetricians have to make – how do you look after this lady with her baby? But we’ve certainly had to deliver some babies early.”

With COVID cases rising across the UK, many fear that the combination of flu and coronavirus cases will put the NHS under severe pressure this winter.

Dr Smith said that she expects more patients to be admitted to King George and Queen’s Hospitals, and encouraged people to get vaccinated to stop the NHS from being overwhelmed.

She said: “We’re preparing for the winter – winter in the NHS is always a really busy time but I think we are expecting it to be busy this year

“We really push and strongly recommend that if you are eligible have your flu vaccine as well, because we think we are going to see more cases of flu.”


Alastair Lockhart

Local Democracy Reporter