A consultant with five days of key sedative supply said: “This is extremely worrying.”
The death toll in the UK rose from 917 to 9,875. One victim was 11 years old.
Three experts informed the Sunday Mirror of supply problems with a sedative given to those on ventilation.
A consultant said his hospital had only five days of propofol.
He said the alternatives were less effective, so the intensive care units would get stuck – denying the next set of patients who could save lives.
Doctors said the supply of pain relieving fentanyl and norepinephrine, a circulation-boosting drug – both essential for patients on respirators – is also drying up.
Experts spoke as the death toll in the UK increased from 917 to 9,875. An 11-year-old child was among the victims.
Consultant anesthesiologist Anthony Beaumont, 62, who came out of retirement to help, said, “We are out of drugs.
No one has seen this pandemic coming and expecting the health service to be ready is unfair. The infrastructure is simply not up to par. “
Another frantic doctor, who asked not to be named, said, “These drugs are rationed by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
“We have enough propofol for about five days. We will be using older medicines like morphine and midazolam to put patients to sleep. The problem is that they will take much longer to wake up.
“The normal ICU stay with influenza pneumonia is five days, but we have up to 15-20 days with Covid patients. This means that another patient cannot be admitted for life-saving treatment. It is extremely worrying. ”
Covid-19 patients on respirators should remain asleep.
Doctors prefer propofol because it has few side effects, and patients tend to recover quickly when it is removed.
Anesthesiologist Anthony, who returned to work at the intensive care unit at Kent and Canterbury Hospital, said: “Propofol is effective, fast, and has no side effects. It sends you into a pleasant sleep and has a good margin of safety.
“We administer this medication continuously via an infusion pump, usually in combination with an opiate such as fentanyl.
“It saves you the pain and suppresses your respiratory drive. One of the positive points is that the patient wakes up very quickly as soon as propofol is stopped.
“There is a shortage. This could mean that operating rooms will have the first choice, leaving patients in intensive care. If this happens, there are plans to use drugs like midazolam with morphine. But midazolam is not as good. Waking up can take hours, sometimes days.
“If it takes days, it means your occupation will increase. There will not be enough beds for the other patients. ”
Global propofol supply chains have been hit hard as demand has exploded.
Only 100 ml costs around £ 20 and although produced by the British company AstraZeneca, a significant volume comes from China, where locks have limited production.
Professor William Harrop-Griffiths, chair of the Royal College of Anesthetists’ clinical quality and research committee, also warned of a shortage.
He has published advice on maximizing drug supplies.
The professor said, “We may find ourselves in a position where drug use will be limited. This means that anesthesiologists and intensive care doctors may not use their first choice drugs. “
Ghost Minister for Mental Health Dr. Rosena Allin-Khan said of the NHS shortages: “The impact on mental health this has should not be underestimated.
Italy tells us that many nurses are trying to kill themselves – they feel like they have failed their patients.
“We need to allow all NHS members to work properly and safely. They deserve it. “
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs said, “We are doing everything to ensure that patients have access to the medicines they need.
“We are working with the pharmaceutical industry and the NHS England to make supplies available. We have banned the parallel export of over 100 medicines to keep supplies in the UK. “
Dr. Chaand Nagpaul, Chairman of the Board of the BMA, said, “We are aware of some shortages of drugs, particularly drugs used to help people with Covid-19 who are on respirators.
“Without this drug, doctors have no choice but to try to find substitutes. This can affect the length of time that patients remain on insufficient ventilators, and ultimately affect their chances of recovery.
“The warning signs are already there, which is why we cannot let this situation get worse. It needs to be addressed urgently, and all health care facilities must have access to the medicines they need to ensure that patients can receive the highest quality care possible as we progress through this pandemic. “