The next few weeks will be “nail-bitingly difficult” for health workers amid the rising number of coronavirus infections across the UK, a senior medic has warned.
Emergency healthcare staff are exhausted and at risk of burnout in the coming weeks. Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said the surging rates of transmission and deaths were “incredibly hard to deal with”.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, she said: “When we are seeing major London trusts saying they are under pressure, that’s when we know we’re in a very challenging space.”
Adrian Boyle, vice president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said NHS staff were “tired, frustrated and fed-up”, but were at “battle stations” in anticipation of further Covid-19 patients being admitted to hospital.
He told BBC Breakfast: “What is it going to be like over the next couple of months? I don’t know, I am worried.
“We are very much at battle stations. There will be short-term surges of morale but people are tired, frustrated and fed-up, as everybody is, whether they work in hospital or not.
“There is a real worry about burnout.”
Their comments come as the UK hit a record high of 55,892 daily lab-confirmed cases in the UK on New Year’s Eve – the highest since mass testing began in late May. A further 964 deaths were also recorded within 28 days of a positive test.
A survey by the British Medical Association (BMA) found that 67 per cent of doctors reported that current levels of fatigue and exhaustion were higher than normal, as they grapple with a mounting second wave of infections, on top of the usual seasonal increase in demand.
Mike Adams, the Royal College of Nursing’s England director, told Sky News that staff leave was being cancelled to deal with the surge in demand.
“If we are having to cancel leave to staff these areas, the obvious question is where will the staff come from to open the Nightingales?” he added.
“I am sure there will be moves to open some beds, there are some beds open in different Nightingale hospitals in different areas of the country.
“I have real concerns that the expectation that this mass rollout in capacity can happen is misplaced because there aren’t the staff to do it.”
Eleven hospitals across Kent and Surrey reported bed occupancy levels in intensive care reaching 137 per cent on New Year’s Day and are unable to meet nurse-to-patient staffing ratios in intensive care.
One critical care clinician told The Independent the region was overwhelmed and the situation was worsening – echoing reports from hospitals elsewhere in England who are racing to open up more beds and making desperate pleas for staff.
Figures published on New Year’s Eve revealed that just under a third of acute trusts had more Covid-19 patients than at any point since the pandemic began, with union leaders wanting about staff burnout, soaring sickness levels and “intolerable” pressures.
Additional reporting by agencies