Exhausted medics have revealed the harrowing reality of fighting to save critically ill Covid patients in the hospitals at the centre of the crisis.
A nurse described the situation inside the Royal Free Hospital in London as like ‘hell’ due to the huge number of ‘really sick’ patients currently being treated on ventilators.
Meanwhile, a mortuary manager noted a rise in younger patients in their 50s and 60s who were dying from Covid compared to the first wave, and the average age of patients with the virus has dropped to just 59 from 70 the first time around.
London’s hospitals have again been at the centre of England’s coronavirus crisis with wards filled with Covid-19 patients over Christmas and into the new year.
There are currently around 7,044 people in hospital with the virus in capital, with 1,217 on ventilators in intensive care.
Daily admissions and the total number of patients have started to decline in recent days but intensive care units are still busy.
Some hospitals in the capital were forced to convert empty wards into space for coronavirus patients while others warned they might have to send people to other parts of the country if they became too full.
The most recent NHS England data, for the week up to January 17, showed that 92 per cent of beds in the Royal Free were full over the course of the week, with an average of just 71 out of 941 beds available to take new patients.
Its critical care wards were almost completely full for that entire week, with 99 per cent occupancy on average and never more than four of 124 beds free.
Tony Brown died a day after he gave this interview – with his wife giving permission for his words to be aired
Heart-rending footage taken by Sky News showed 73-year-old lorry driver Tony Brown clinging to life in Barnet Hospital – Royal Free’s sister hospital.
‘We just all hope that we will live, and come out of it,’ he said on Thursday afternoon.
Mr Brown died on Friday night, with his widow, Linda, giving permission for his final interview to be broadcast.
Describing what he was going through, Mr Brown said: ‘Absolutely terrible. It’s very, very frightening. I’ve had some very bad nights, very worrying nights. Twice I went to ring my wife, to tell her I weren’t coming [back]. It is very hard.’
He added. ‘If people would have taken a lot more care when this come out and hadn’t ignored it, we wouldn’t be such a mess we’re in.
‘We wouldn’t have had so many deaths, so many people who are critically ill. And the NHS are fantastic, brilliant.’
Mr Brown – a lorry driver and key worker – believed he had caught the virus at work, and blamed people for ignoring social distancing and not wearing masks.
Describing how much he missed his wife, Linda, he told Sky New Home News Editor Jason Farrell: ‘Oh I miss her,’ he hadn’t seen her for two weeks.
‘But I hope to one day. Hopefully, I will. That’s all I want now. I don’t want anything else in life.’
At Barnet Hospital, the number of Covid patients has doubled from the first wave and their average age is 59 – a decade younger than before.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday there were 300 patients with Covid at the Royal Free.
This figure is lower than during the first wave, but because there are more non-Covid patients the pressure on staff is higher. More than 80 of the patients were on ventilators.
Specialist ITU nurse Nicolas Agudo described the situation inside the Royal Free Hospital as like ‘hell’
On Wednesday there were 300 patients with Covid at the Royal Free Hospital in London
A Covid patient waving to a family member on a Zoom call – with a medical patient holding the tablet
Specialist ITU nurse Nicolas Agudo said: ‘This is hell. We cannot continue like this, we need to ask people to please contribute, stay home.
‘I do understand people want to get together, you know and see their relatives. This is the result.
‘I feel like I want to cry in many moments. I mean, I can’t do my job properly.’
Mortuary manager Laura McMinn, said she had noticed that the people who were dying from the virus were getting younger.
‘It’s more patients in their 50s and 60s that we’re seeing this time rather than patients in their 70s, 80s, 90s, like we were first time,’ she said.
Dr Mike Spiro, an intensive care consultant, said that London hospitals were now so full they had been considering sending patients to the Midlands.
‘We’ve seen a huge number of really, really sick patients,’ he said.
‘So, there is a limit to the critical care capacity in London. Not just physical space, but also nursing staff numbers, and the ability to care for those patients.’