NHS facing ‘most dangerous four weeks’ of pandemic, doctor says as he rubbishes empty hospitals rumours

The NHS is facing the most dangerous four weeks of the pandemic so far, a doctor has warned, as he rubbished rumours circulating online that hospitals were empty. 

Dr Kevin Fong, consultant anaesthetist and national clinical adviser to NHS England’s emergency preparedness resilience and response team for Covid-19, was asked if NHS services could be overwhelmed.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that alert level five "by definition means that there is a risk in the next 21 days of services being overwhelmed".

He added: "I think what we’ve got coming up now are the most dangerous four to six weeks of the whole pandemic and we need this last push to get us through, and we need everybody’s help… to help choke off the supply of these cases coming through.

"We need the public to help us, we’re out there to help you. We need you to help us."

Of comments on social media downplaying the seriousness of the pandemic, he said: "I have been a doctor for 22 years, I’m trained in anaesthesia and intensive care.

"I spent my Christmas moving patients around from hospital to hospital trying to find spare beds that we can park them into, and I have been embedded with the Covid-19 response since March.

"So you can believe me that the hospitals are full, or you can believe people who are sitting at a keyboard who’ve never put on a shred of PPE and never seen the inside of an intensive care unit, let alone during Covid-19."

He said "the whole country is busy at the moment – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, we’re running super hot."

Another doctor warned that there are no hospital beds currently available in Intensive Therapy Units (ITU) in the South Wales Valleys. 

Issy Phillips said on Twitter: "There are no ITU beds in the Valleys.

"So you might be 23 and invincible if you get Covid but what if you crash your car? Or a friend takes an overdose or a parent needs emergency surgery?

"Guess what – no beds for you either. And that’s how this affects everyone. Rant over."

Dr Fong, based at University College London, said things were "pretty tough" in intensive care units.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: "I think my colleagues in intensive care are out at full stretch, they have been for some time now, and this is as hard as I’ve ever seen the teams work.

"We are grateful that the lockdown has come. It gives us a fighting chance, but I have never seen anything like it.

"We have been working flat out across Christmas doing everything we can to address the surge in cases of Covid-19."

He said "staffing is a problem because of isolation – people having to go into isolation because of contacts – people being sick themselves, and just the staff being exhausted really".

He added: "So yes, all of these pressures are building up in the system."

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