A doctor working in a London hospital said he is concerned ‘significant patient harm’ is occurring due to a lack of beds (Picture: PA)
A London hospital is being forced to send patients back to ambulances for treatment due to an ‘overwhelming’ number of Covid patients on ICU wards, according to a frontline doctor.
The medic, who asked to remain anonymous, said A&E staff are ‘running’ into waiting ambulances to treat patients there until space becomes available.
He said: ‘It’s not the fault of the staff, but the sheer numbers are so unprecedented and being full like this means that you just have to do your best to adapt.
‘But it’s not the standard (of care) I signed up to.
‘It’s extremely stressful for us to be doing our best but knowing that significant patient harm is happening because there isn’t space and the patient load is too high.’
He raised concerns that ‘significant patient harm’ was occurring due to a lack of beds available and the emergency system means medics are limited in the care they can provide.
Paramedics and medical staff wearing PPE unload a patient from an ambulance outside the Royal London Hospital in London (Picture: PA)
‘Last week, I saw a patient in the back of an ambulance who had very low oxygen levels, and it became very clear he had heart failure, liquid was building up in their lungs and they were essentially drowning,’ added the doctor.
‘So I had to walk them out of the ambulance, to an X-ray machine, they had their X-ray in the hospital and because there was no space we had to stretcher them back to the ambulance, even though they were in heart failure.’
His concerns came as the UK yesterday recorded the highest daily death toll since the pandemic began, with 1,564 people dying with the virus.
The prime minister warned there is a ‘very substantial risk’ of intensive care units becoming overwhelmed and the strain on NHS staff is ‘colossal’.
Staff shortages have hit hospitals hard, but the London doctor said this was not always due to Covid symptoms, with some staff being signed off sick with PTSD, depression and anxiety.
He said: ‘I know ICU nurses who can’t go to work because they can’t sleep.’
As staff work back-to-back shifts to cope with the ‘overwhelming’ patient numbers, he said medics desperately try to make sure loved ones get time with their relatives before they die.
He said he currently makes up to three phone calls per shift to discuss end of life care with patients’ loved ones.
‘There was an elderly man I knew was going to pass away from Covid, and I contacted his daughter – she wasn’t aware he had even been brought to hospital,’ he said.
‘She asked if she could bring in a little glass of whiskey and have it with him, and I said that was a good idea.
‘I don’t know why it hit me so hard, but she came in, and they had a whiskey together and by the time she’d come out, he passed away.
‘Somehow amidst all the horrible things going on, we somehow made sure she had that moment which was very important.’
The doctor worked a shift finishing at 8pm on New Year’s Eve and said he felt ‘sick’ to his stomach seeing party-goers on the Tube home.
He said: ‘On the Tube, there were lots of people wearing glittery outfits. I felt so upset because I know they are not wearing those outfits to go shopping, they are going to a party.
‘I felt so upset because I’ve been fighting all day and it didn’t seem to matter to them. They were going to pretend it wasn’t happening.’
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