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COVID-19: Frontline doctors speak out about struggle to maintain care standards

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Frontline doctors have testified to deteriorating conditions in hospitals in London and the south east as the NHS deals with a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Speaking to the Independent SAGE group of experts on 30 December, Jess Potter, a respiratory doctor in east London, told how she and colleagues were afraid of resources running out.

“My greatest fear is having a patient that I cannot provide lifesaving treatment to,” she said. “We had one of our largest medical intakes yesterday, the vast majority with coronavirus. What do we do when we run out of resources, and who is going to provide that guidance? It will harm our patients and our staff, because we have a set of values by which we practise, and we will have to reduce the level of care we deliver.”

She added, “Back in April I never saw a case where we didn’t provide a bed to a patient who needed it in intensive care, and decisions were taken as if in normal times. Now I hear from medics across the country that things are very bad, and the situation is the same as in April, if not worse. We are afraid of what will happen if we don’t act now.”

Sonia Adesara, a doctor in London, spoke to Independent SAGE after a set of night shifts at her trust and told of a chronic shortage of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) capacity.

“In the past few days, despite my hospital significantly increasing intensive and critical care capacity, our intensive care unit has been full, and there is no spare CPAP capacity. Medics are spending shifts trying to closely monitor all of our patients who are on the highest level of oxygen that we can give with a normal mask, assessing who is most unwell and unstable—and then frequently checking on patients who are on CPAP and then swapping people [around]."

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Source: BMJ, 31 December 2020

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