After nearly two years of pandemic, 5,000 inpatients and 1,000 deaths, the staff of one of the largest hospitals in north-west England are frustrated and exhausted.
While ministers talk of encouraging signs that the Omicron wave may be receding in parts of England, staff at the Royal Preston are struggling to keep their heads above water.
The hospital has seen a near four-fold increase in Covid patients since Christmas Day, rising to 103 last week. It is one of the largest hospitals in a region with the highest infection levels in the UK and two neighbouring NHS Trusts have declared critical incidents. Despite a recent slowdown in admissions, the “horrendous” levels of staff absence means the pressure is ratcheting up.