January 19, 2021

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Harrowing footage shows NHS hospital staff forced to choose between Covid patients ‘dying at dramatic speed’

HARROWING footage filmed inside one of London’s biggest hospitals lays bare the toll of the latest Covid spike on both patients and medical staff.

Staff at University College Hospital in London said they are being forced to choose between patients as a growing number of young people enter intensive care fighting for life.

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Staff treat a Covid patient inside University College Hospital in LondonCredit: BBC
Rachel Arfin is one of three pregnant women in the ICU with Covid

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Rachel Arfin is one of three pregnant women in the ICU with CovidCredit: BBC
One nurse, Ashleigh, said medics are being forced to choose patients

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One nurse, Ashleigh, said medics are being forced to choose patientsCredit: BBC

Scores of patients are losing their lives ‘at dramatic speed’ in the intensive care unit as nurses are forced to prioritise care.

Meanwhile, patients have spoken of their trauma on the ward.

One patient, Attila Karayel, 67, said: “It knocked me out. I didn’t think I would make it.

“There is no oxygen around. It’s very frightening.”

Deputy sister at University College Hospital Ashleigh Shillingford told the BBC: “We are so strecthed we have to prioritise, and prioritising care is not the NHS I grew up in. We shouldn’t have to choose what patient gets what care first.

“People are asking for your help and you don’t know who to help first. The patients are losing their lives at a dramatic speed. We are not just getting older people. This is young people that we are getting, people my age.”

London hospitals have seen covid patients double in two weeks, and University College Hospital is now transforming operating theatre’s and children’s units into intensive care units to deal with the demand.

Three pregnant women are currently in intensive care at the Covid-stricken hospital. 

Rachel Arfin, who is five weeks before her due date, said in a heartbreaking interview: “Every mother puts her child before herself.”

“They can’t do anything that wil harm the baby. They look after my baby so well. All the time, coming and checking, monitoring the baby’s happy.

“They are looking after two people. They are saving lives.”

Staff said they fear burnout with the crisis still growing

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Staff said they fear burnout with the crisis still growing Credit: BBC
There are three times as many critically ill patients than a normal winter

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There are three times as many critically ill patients than a normal winterCredit: BBC
More wards are being transformed into ICUs in a bid to cope with capacity

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More wards are being transformed into ICUs in a bid to cope with capacityCredit: BBC

Intensive care nursing is highly specialised with nurses usually offering one to one care. But now nurses are responsible for three to five patients and have been seen crying regularly.

Consultant Dr Jim Down said: “We have got plans that we can expand for another week at this rate but after that we really need to see it slow down, or we are going to see the care that we deliver suffer.

“We will be running so thin on staff that we phsyically couldn’t look after critically ill patients.”

Dr Alice Carter, a consultant, sent her two children aged five and seven to live with their grandparents in Scotland for the first lockdown.

She said: “We were not sure how we would manage. I had my five-year-old in tears last night at the thought of another lockdown because she thought that meant I was sending her away again.

“It’s not uncomon at the moment that I come into work to find nurses crying. The physical and mental load is huge. I’m really worried that we are going to break a lot of nurses and doctors too.”

Another healthcare worker told the BBC: “I’m emotionally all over the place. Scared, sad, petrified, worried.”

Deaths rose above 1,000 for the first time since April today
Deaths rose above 1,000 for the first time since April today

It comes as Sussex became the latest region to declare a major incident as its hospitals face ‘unprecedented pressures’ amid soaring Covid cases.

Covid deaths today topped 1,000 for the first time since April and cases rocketed by 62,322 in the highest daily rise ever. 

Virus patients have also seen a record rise with 30,074 Brits now being treated in hospital with the disease.

Attila Karayel said patients are aware there is a lack of oxygen

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Attila Karayel said patients are aware there is a lack of oxygenCredit: BBC
Staff are working throughout the day in full PPE

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Staff are working throughout the day in full PPECredit: BBC
Dozens of patients require ventilators in the hospital

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Dozens of patients require ventilators in the hospitalCredit: BBC