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Disturbing footage shot inside one of the biggest hospitals in London shows the horrific toll on both patients and medical staff during this latest coronavirus spike.
Staff at the capital's University College Hospital say they are being forced to to make the heartbreaking choice of which patients to prioritise as they tackle a surge in young people left fighting for their life.
Patients are dying 'at dramatic speed' as medics in the intensive care unit choose between how to prioritise nursing care.
In the last fortnight the number of coronavirus patients being admitted to hospitals in London have doubled.
Dr Alice Carter has compared the current climate to an elastic band that is close to snapping.
Dr Alice Carter
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"It gets to a point where you stretch so far it never returns back to its baseline," she said.
Coronavirus patients have shared their experience of being admitted to the ward with some saying there is awareness that a lack of ventilators mean people will die.
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."
The number of coronavirus patients being admitted to hospitals in London have doubled
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Ashleigh Shillingford, deputy sister at University College Hospital, told the BBC: "We are so stretched 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."
The hospital has three times as many critically ill patient as normal.
The increase has forced University College Hospital to convert its operating theatre’s and children’s units into intensive care units to deal with the demand.
Rachel Arfin's baby is due in five weeks time
Three Covid patients currently being treated at the hospital are pregnant.
Rachel Arfin, who is 35 weeks pregnant, said: "Every mother puts her child before herself."
"They can’t do anything that will 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."
Gerald Williams is waiting for chemotherapy treatment
Another patient is Gerald Williams who has lung cancer and is waiting for chemotherapy treatment.
The 58-year-old has been shielding since April but has contracted coronavirus.
He said: "All of a sudden, out of the blue, Covid came knocking on my door and it's frightening – you don't know how you're getting your next breath."
The specialist intensive care nurses usually look after the patients in the ward on a one-to-one basis, but due to the surge in admission they are now stretched to three to five patients with some being seen crying regularly.
University College Hospital is in London
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 physically couldn’t look after critically ill patients."
The number of lives lost to Covid-19 in the UK has risen by more than 1,000 for the first time since last April, with a record number of infections yesterday.
In total 1,041 people died on Wednesday, the highest daily death increase since April 22, with 62,322 new cases.
The tragic figure was confirmed as health service chiefs warned we are at the "most serious" stage in the pandemic so far.
An estimated one in 50 people had the virus on January 2, with experts warning hospital admissions and fatalities will continue to soar.
On Monday Boris Johnson said he had no choice but to put England back in lockdown as a result of rising cases.
He also warned that the drastic measure could remain in place until March, having initially said he hoped it could end in the middle of next month.