A nurse has given a harrowing account of the ‘unbearable’ conditions in a London hospital as medics warn the worst of the second wave is yet to come.
The nurse, who works at the Whittington Hospital in north London, described patients being left in corridors, some spending up to three hours in ambulances because of a lack of beds and one being left without oxygen when their cylinder ran out.
The nurse, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: ‘I’m worried about patient safety because if these little things are happening now when we’re short and it’s busy, it’s only going to get worse.
‘I don’t know what else will happen – it worries me.’
The nurse said six beds were being put in bays that usually hold four and rooms were being converted into makeshift wards to cope. Patients are being treated in ambulances outside the hospital, leaving paramedics unable to go and attend to more call-outs.
‘You’ve got patients in plaster rooms on hospital beds, and patients being left on oxygen in corridors and waiting to be taken back to their room,’ they said.
‘Over Christmas it was so, so short, and it’s really worrying because patient safety is already being affected.
‘One paramedic was telling me on Boxing Day they had over 500 calls waiting but he was stuck in our A&E for three hours with a patient in his ambulance.
‘It’s these sorts of things that if they continue to happen, it makes me wonder, is somebody going to be harmed because of this?’
The nurse called on the Government to instigate a complete lockdown, saying conditions were already ‘unbearable’ and are likely to get worse with a peak expected in the coming weeks after some families gathered at Christmas.
She said there are not enough nurses to care for patients and the rising hospital admissions are taking a toll on exhausted staff.
‘Staff have got low morale – we haven’t even gotten over the first wave physically, emotionally and mentally, and now we’re having to deal with this second wave,’ the nurse said.
They described finding one Covid patient with ‘several health conditions’ who had been left on an oxygen cylinder after it had run out.
‘He thought he was receiving oxygen but the whole cylinder had run out.
‘Because of staff shortages and because the nurses are tired, no one had checked on him.’
Several frontline healthcare workers have spoken about the challenging conditions they face in a bid to persuade the public to stick to the rules and take the virus seriously.
Om New Years Eve, a junior A&E doctor was left ‘heartbroken’ when a maskless crowd allegedly shouted ‘Covid is a hoax’ outside St Thomas’ Hospital in London.
Dr Matthew Lee said: ‘I’m disgusted but mostly heartbroken. I wish people could see the amount of #COVID19 and death in hospitals, and the sacrifices that healthcare workers make.
‘This week alone has been so tough. Their ignorance is hurting others. I really wish people would keep themselves safe.’
It comes as the UK records another 57,000 new cases today, the highest daily number since the pandemic began and the fifth day in a row infections have exceeded 50,000.
Almost two-thirds of beds at some London hospitals are being used to treat Covid-19 patients.
Professor Andrew Goddard described the statistic as ‘staggering’ and said he feared it is going to happen across the whole of the UK as the new more infectious variant spreads.
‘It’s hard to know what is going to happen,’ he told ITV news.
‘There’s no doubt that this new variant is more transmissible and the escalation of cases we’ve seen in south Wales, London, Essex, south-east England, has been at a much greater rate than what we’ve seen in the previous strains. That’s got to be a concern.’
The majority of London hospitals have had to cancel the bulk of planned operations to handle the surge.
Of 39 NHS hospital trusts in the capital, 29 have said that they are pausing almost all forms of operations and procedures, except for cancer treatment and emergencies, according to The Times.
Neil Mortensen, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said that the growing strain on hospitals since the end of the last lockdown had been ‘like watching a car crash in slow motion’.
The NHS has said that London’s Nightingale Hospital at the Excel Centre is ready to admit patients after being ‘reactivated’ to cope with the rise in Covid-19 patients.
But one health leader warned that the field hospitals can’t ‘swoop in to save’ the struggling NHS as there is ‘no magic pile of nurses’ to staff them.
It comes as the first batch of the Oxford Covid vaccine arrives at hospitals, with the rollout expected to start next week.
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