Behind the NHS coronavirus front line where heroes’ families fear for their lives

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NHS staff say their families “worry what they are bringing through the door” when they return from Covid-hit hospitals.

Coronavirus patients in hospital in England stood at a record 28,246 at 8am on Thursday, up 24% on a week ago.

There are 50% more patients in hospitals than during the first wave and 10,000 more since Christmas Day.

London and the South East have been overrun by the mutant variant and the rest of the country is thought to be a few weeks behind.

NHS Providers revealed hospital bosses are asking if they can put patients in beds in care homes.

Do you live with a key worker on the pandemic front line? Share your experiences in the comments below…

A nurse works on a patient at the St George Hospital, Tooting, ICU
(Image: PA)

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A leaked document has shown London’s hospitals are less than two weeks from being overwhelmed.

Tori Cooper, 44, head emergency nurse at St George’s Hospital, in South West London, said: “My family are obviously worried about me coming in to work but they know this is what I do, what I love, my reason for getting up in the morning.

"But they have that concern every day that I might get sick. And you worry what you’re bringing through the door.”

On the front lines at St George's Hospital
(Image: PA)

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She said it is “by far the hardest” time of her 20-year career.

“The things we’ve seen have been more difficult than anything I’ve seen. When you go home you almost don’t want to allow yourself time to crumble because you think if you start, you won’t stop.

“Every person could be a family member, that’s what’s so hard.”

NHS England figures showed a total of 3,697 hospital admissions were reported for January 5, passing the previous record of 3,587 on January 4.

During the first wave, admissions peaked at 3,099, on April 1, 2020.

Staff work in the corridor of the Acute Dependency Unit at St George's Hospital
(Image: PA)

A patient is prepared for transfer from the Acute Dependency Unit to the ICU at St George's Hospital in Tooting
(Image: PA)

Nationally, almost 50,000 NHS staff are off sick with Covid-19 and safe medic-to-patient ratios are having to be relaxed, London medical director Vin Diwakar told other chiefs of the capital’s trusts, the Health Service Journal reported.

The Mirror understands most hospitals are on “divert”, meaning they do not have enough beds to take in ambulance patients.

The NHS England presentation showed even if the number of Covid patients grew at the lowest rate, and measures to increase capacity were successful – including opening the ­capital’s Nightingale hospital – the NHS in London would be short of nearly 2,000 general and acute and intensive care beds by January 19.

Intensive care beds for the critically sick at St George's has had to be increased from 60 to 120
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A staff nurse treats 64-year-old patient Peter Watts
(Image: PA)

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Prof Rupert Pearse, intensive care consultant at a London hospital, said: “We’re down to one nurse to three and filling those gaps with untrained staff. We’re faced with diluting that to one in four.”

Dr Mohamed Ahmed, 40, ICU consultant at St George’s, said: “When a nurse has to look after three or four patients, their standards are lowered.

“They come away feeling ­de­­­­­motivated and demoralised.”

ICU matron Lindsey Izard, 47, said pressures were immense. “It’s not just Covid,” she said. “If you go up a ladder this weekend and fall off it, there’s a chance you won’t get an ICU bed.”

The hospital staff are working hard as coronavirus cases surge
(Image: PA)

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She added: “What we’ll see at the end of this is exhausted nurses, with a large number who may not want to stay in the profession.”

Omome Etomi, 28, a medical ­registrar on the Acute Medicine Unit, said she was “shattered”. She said: “Psychologically more than anything, it’s been months and months of this.”

St George’s has had to expand the number of intensive care beds for the critically sick from 60 to 120.

The Intensive Care Society said problems were spreading over the UK. Dr Richard Cree, of South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “I’ve spent a torrid few days desperately trying to keep people alive and failing.”

The Government is being pressed to pay care homes to take on thousands of patients from hospitals, the Health Service Journal reported.

Intensive care medics are under pressure at this London hospital
(Image: PA)

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NHS Providers chief Chris Hopson said: “This is escalating really quickly. We are reaching the point in some places where hospital beds are full, community beds are full and ­community at home services are full.”

Across England, the virus accounts for almost half of staff absences – 46,378 out of a total of 95,452.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs on the Health Select Committee: “Hospitalisation levels I’d expect to fall but, ironically, not as quickly as deaths in the first instance.

"Slightly younger patients spend longer in hospital, often because they survive when somebody very old and frail might not survive for as long.”

Staff at the hospital say they are exhausted
(Image: PA)

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Staff at St George’s confirmed that they are treating patients in their 20s and 30s, many of them seriously ill.

In London there were 7,231 Covid patients in hospitals on Thursday, up 27% in a week. In Wales it was 2,800, with 1,467 in Scotland.

NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “We are seeing up over 800 patients a day admitted to London hospitals with coronavirus.

“That is the equivalent of a new St Thomas’ Hospital full of Covid patients, fully staffed, every day.”

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