London doctor tells of ‘physically exhausting’ shifts treating Covid patients as hospitals come under strain


London doctor has revealed the growing strain on medical staff treating the mounting number of Covid-19 patients amid warnings that some services are now struggling to cope.  

The registrar told of “physically exhausting” shifts working long hours without breaks.

Speaking to Radio 4’s Today on Thursday morning, the doctor, called Toby, said the situation had become increasingly difficult since Christmas, as hospitals have to cope with growing numbers of sick people.  

“Every night was harder than the last. Every night it seemed there were more patients arriving in the emergency department, more patients on the wards getting sicker, ITU was filling up,” he said.

“Overall, the nights were just very difficult, physically exhausting working long hours without breaks, wearing PPE most of the night, mentally very tiring because patients are so sick.”

More than 23,000 people with the coronavirus are currently being treated in hospitals in England and Wales, above the first wave peak in April.

His comments came as a critical care network in London reportedly warned it was “beyond full and needs help” to cope with a severe nursing shortage and limited oxygen supplies.  

According to the Times, a note circulated to senior NHS staff on Wednesday following a meeting of the North East and North Central London Adult Critical Care Network said that demand was outstripping resources.

The network covers 17 hospitals in the capital and Essex, and had 235 patients in 236 beds, 160 of whom were said to be ill with Covid-19.

Staff in Newham University Hospital reportedly had to convert an intensive care unit cupboard into room for a bed, while doctors at Queen’s Hospital in Romford were said to have approved reduced oxygen usage targets for patients to ease pressure on supplies. Doctors stressed this was safe, but admitted it was unusual.  

According to the report, the critical care network note warned of “dire” nursing numbers at Queen’s Hospital.

Nicki Credland, chairwoman of the British Association of Critical Care Nurses, said: “We simply don’t have enough critical care nurses.

“We didn’t have enough nurses when we started, so we can’t possibly expect there to be enough nurses miraculously nine months later, when you add in things like sickness.”

Some 14,915 patients have been admitted to hospital with Covid-19 in the past week, an 18 per cent increase on the week before.

The British Medical Association (BMA) warned that the NHS will “struggle to get patients in urgent need of care, the care they need” if the trajectory of rising infections continues.

Council chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “With daily cases soaring to over 50,000 this week, placing the NHS under enormous strain, the decision to move millions more people into tougher restrictions across the country is a necessary step.

“As we hear more reports of hospitals declaring major incidents, ICU beds reaching 100 per cent capacity in parts of the country, and patients having to be transferred to other hospitals for care, it is vital that everything possible is done to bring down the spread of the virus.”


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