By Robert Firth
A worried A&E nurse has made a desperate plea for more intensive care beds – fearing coronavirus will be worse in the UK than Italy, with hospitals becoming overwhelmed in as little as five days.
Mark Boothroyd, 34, an A&E nurse at a large teaching hospital in central London, came to the stark opinion after completing his first shift back following a two week holiday on Saturday, working on a resuscitation ward where 90 per cent of patients had symptoms of Covid-19.
And the nurse of eight years fears the UK will have a longer period of infections than Italy, because of the time it has taken for a full lockdown to be imposed.
He is now urging the government to ramp up the number of intensive care beds available in hospitals by treating patients without coronavirus outside of hospitals in gymnasiums and military hospitals.
Mark, from London, is also calling on hospital staff to be provided with a better standard of PPE equipment, after colleagues at his hospital expressed fears that staff treating patients with symptoms of coronavirus didn’t have the airtight face masks and head to toe gowns.
His hard-hitting video diary sharing his feelings on the coronavirus outbreak has since gone viral, racking up more than 10,000 views online.
Mark said: “On my first shift back we were getting more patients in suffering from Covid-19.
“I was on the resuscitation ward, where we get the really sick patients, and 90 per cent of the patients there had symptoms of coronavirus.
“When I left to go on holiday it was business as usual and now I’m back there’s a pandemic and we’re preparing for a massive influx of patients.
“Lots of problems are becoming apparent – it’s very concerning.
“I fear that it will be worse in the UK than in Italy soon with more cases and deaths but less beds.
“The government has dithered: I think the infection has had more time to spread widely.
“We had a week of business as usual and those people who were out mixing, in five or 10 days’ time are going to be very sick, filling up hospitals.
“We’re really worried that we’re going to be where Italy is in five to 10 days.
“We havelots of Italian nurses here who have been on the phone to their mates back home hearing about the problems in Italy and tearing their hair out.
“It’s going to need drastic action to change things – the government needs to do everything to get extra capacicy in hospitals.
“They’ve got to consider taking over campus gymnasiums and using them as hospitals.
“Military hospitals should also be opened up, even if it’s just to take non-coronavirus patients out of the NHS and use the NHS just for coronavirus patients.
“They can start preparing this now or they can start preparing it in the middle of the crisis. And looking at what they have done so far, they’re ten steps behind.”
Mark also criticised the quality of protective equipment that NHS staff on the front line were being provided with, claiming it is inferior to that being given to medics in other countries.
He said most hospital staff are only wearing normal surgical gloves, masks and aprons when dealing with suspected coronavirus patients, which many fear don’t provide adequate protection from the virus.
Mark added: “When the coronavirus outbreak was first announced we had to have a mask which had a seal around it so that there was no chance of droplets getting in, and a head to toe gown and face visor.
“When people started to run out of equipment, Public Health England said if it’s suspected coronavirus you just need to wear a normal mask and apron.
“Now you only get the heavy-duty stuff if you’re dealing with certain procedures.
“Lots of people at the hospital are very sceptical of the guidance and fear it is going to put more people at risk.
“When you look at the photos coming out of Italy, the quality of protective clothing that they are wearing is better than what we’re wearing.
“We’re talking about an airtight face mask, a full body gown to the wrists and ankles and a head and face shield.
“Currently the only people using that are the anaesthetists.”
Mark has issued a warning to Brits still not heeding the country’s lockdown, but fears the government’s action could have been too little too late.
He added: “The lockdown in other countries has shown to have an impact, but it takes four to six weeks for that to pay off.
“Tragically, many people haven’t been taking the outbreak seriously until yesterday because the advice isn’t enough.
“I think people will take it more seriously now that the lockdown has been imposed, but it has been left too late and to go on for too long.”