CONSULTANTS HELPING ON STRETCHED ICU WARDS OUT AS NURSES
MORE than 50 hospital consultants are acting as intensive care nurses to help Leicester’s hospitals care for Covid-19 patients.
One in three patients on the wards at the city’s three hospitals have tested positive for the virus and are receiving treatment.
With other wards closed and some elective operations paused, consultants from other departments are assisting intensive care nurses.
More than 450 Covid-positive patients are being looked after at the Leicester Royal Infirmary, Leicester General Hospital and Glenfield Hospital.
Of those, 62 require the highest level of care on intensive care wards, with a further 25 receiving advanced respiratory support.
Andrew Furlong, medical director of the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, set the scene as he joined other local health professionals on a vaccine Q&A on Thursday night.
“Winter is always a very busy time for the NHS, in particular our hospitals, and on top of that we now have overlaid the Covid pandemic,” he said.
“It’s a stark statistic that in April/ May (at the height of the first wave) we had 206 patients with Covid, and we currently have more than 450. Just over one in three beds has a patient with Covid in.”
He explained that the trust usually had 49 intensive care beds. At the moment, 76 patients are receiving intensive care.
Of these the vast majority - 62 have Covid, while the remainder have other conditions.
“That means we are operating at 155 per cent of our normal capacity,” said Mr Furlong. “There is then another ward’s worth of patients, so 25, needing advanced respiratory support. You might have seen this on TV, they are on CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines.
“These are patients who traditionally might be treated on intensive care units. We’re currently operating at around 100 patients needing advanced respiratory support because of Covid, compared to our normal intensive care footprint of 49 beds.”
Surgical wards are being used as medical wards and staff have been moved from other areas of the hospitals.
Mr Furlong, pictured below, added: “We have more than 50 of our consultants working on intensive care in a capacity not as doctors, but actually as nurses to support staff and patients on the intensive care unit.
“We need a way out of this if we are to go back to providing care in the way we should all rightfully expect.”
Mr Furlong also revealed that 14,500 UHL staff and a further 27,000 healthcare professionals across LLR have received their vaccinations.
He confirmed he has had his jab and said: “The reason I have had my vaccine is that I know it protects me, but I also know it protects my nearest and dearest and it’s protecting the NHS.” Straight from an intensive care shift, Dr Jennifer Briggs gave an account of what it is like on the wards at the moment.
“We normally have around 20 intensive care beds on my unit at the LRI, and at the moment we are nearly at twice that number, she said. “And the patients are all very sick. Speaking to a colleague earlier, he said it is the worst he has seen it in 32 years of intensive care medicine.
“I’ve not been in intensive care as long as he has, but it’s certainly the worst I’ve ever seen it.”
Talking about those she has been caring for, she said: “The patients are all ages. I think people think they are people that are already very sick because they have underlying health conditions.
“But we are not talking about people who are in the final years of their life. We’re talking about people who might take one tablet for blood pressure, or who have high cholesterol, diabetes or maybe even cataracts.
“These are all patients I’ve personally looked after - they are fit and well.
“They are not people who are frail, they are people leading fit and healthy lives with many years ahead of them, until they get Covid, and end up with us and we try our best and work so hard. But we are losing a lot of people, despite our best efforts.”
She also spoke about the lasting effects for those who are hardest hit.
“Yes, we see the death figures, but we don’t see about those who end up with serious conditions afterwards, serious lung damage, serious kidney damage, on dialysis.
“People don’t just go back to normal. We don’t see about those who lose their health because of this.
“This takes away health as well as lives.”
News of the vaccine and its continuing roll-out across the country does provide some light at the end of the tunnel and has resulted in the mood among medics being lifted, Dr Briggs said.
“Staff are exhausted but doing everything they can, they are dedicated but news of the vaccine lifted the mood, we were all very excited and looking forward to the opportunity to be able to have it.”