Fighting on the virus front line: As the gravest crisis the NHS has ever faced rages on … meet the army of selfless heroes who are risking their lives to battle coronavirus
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The Mail has long championed the tireless efforts of the doctors, nurses, assistants and volunteers who come together every day to help make our healthcare system the envy of the world.
And in these particularly difficult times, as they stand together against coronavirus, we laud them now more than ever. Amazingly, not only are many health professionals being redeployed to areas of the NHS unfamiliar to them, but retired and student colleagues are, at a moment’s notice, stepping up to help in this time of national need.
Here, we talk to just a few of these amazing NHS heroes.
Doctors, nurses, assistants and volunteers all stand together against coronavirus and we laud them now more than ever. Pictured: A banner in Manchester shows support for NHS staff
Hannah Lappin, 32, is a PA who lives with husband Carl, 36
Hannah Lappin, 32, is a PA who lives with husband Carl, 36, a commercial manager and their four children in Hampshire. She says:
Although I still have my job, I’ve applied to go back to work as a paediatric nurse because it’s the right thing to do in the current climate. I qualified in 2009 but two years ago gave it up to look after my family. But when all this happened, I just felt I have to go back and support my colleagues and friends who are on the front-line. Friends who are working on the wards are saying it’s very busy, although thankfully the paediatric unit is not as busy as other wards at the moment. But that might mean I’m redeployed to intensive care or A&E.
I expected to get called up at some point anyway, so I thought I’d get in there first. I’ve done a little bit of private care work in those two years so my skills are still there and you can always do the basics such as taking a pulse or temperature. Of course I worry a little that I may get the virus myself and bring it home to my family. But I’ll take all the necessary precautions. I’ll change into my uniform at work and out of it again before getting home and I’ll boil wash it.
Because my husband is still in work, our plan is that he will work mornings and early afternoons in his job and then I will work at whatever hospital I’m deployed to from mid-afternoon until the early hours of the morning. It will mean I hardly see him, but his job pays the mortgage and he has to keep it.
He’s been completely supportive and we know it won’t be for ever. It’s not like some nurses who are having to completely isolate themselves. I saw one story on Facebook recently of a nurse who was completely isolating herself from her husband because he has cystic fibrosis.
She’s about to move out of her home so she can work for the NHS but not give him the virus. I feel insignificant compared to what she’s doing.
I’ve applied to two Trusts and I’m told that the applications are being processed as quickly as 24 hours, so I may already be working later this week. I’m a little nervous but I’m a ‘hit the ground running’ kind of person. There will be new policies and procedures in place that I will have to learn, but in my experience, nurses are amazing and always rally round if I need help.
This feels like the very least I can do in the circumstances.
The past ten days have been the scariest and most challenging of my medical career.
By the time I came into work the morning after Boris Johnson announced we had moved from the ‘delay’ to ‘contain’ phase, managers who had been up all night had already started to implement profound changes to the way our hospital was run.
Dr Max Pemberton is an nhs psychiatrist and Daily Mail columnist
Mental health patients are at particular risk because they are likely to have underlying physical health problems, so it is essential the wards are prepared for infected patients and there are beds for them.
We have discharged whole wards in preparation, and have had to make uncomfortable decisions about redeploying staff and clearing space in preparation for the tidal wave of sick patients that is anticipated.
I am one of those that was redeployed for a short time, to cover an inpatient psychiatric ward, because the junior doctor had to self-isolate. As well as all the usual junior doctor jobs such as writing up drug charts, my main job was to identify patients who could be discharged. All the patients were very unwell and none would have usually been sent home, yet we had no choice.
Then we had a case of suspected Covid-19, so the patient had to be nursed in isolation. The time and resources this took was considerable — it required wearing an apron, eye mask, face mask, shoe covering and gloves.
To add to it all, my partner has an inherited liver condition which means he is high risk so I am having to frantically arrange a hotel to move into to protect him.
As more staff members go off sick or have to isolate it is inevitable that I will be asked to cover other wards. At the moment I have stayed working within my area of expertise — mental health — but we must be prepared to be redeployed. This is daunting, but medical and nursing training in this country is thorough so I know we will cope.
I have never been prouder of our NHS and to play my part in it. At times of national crisis like this we see the value of having a healthcare system like ours. There is no way that other countries could have achieved the kind of extraordinary, gargantuan reorganisation in literally a matter of days. We all knew that there would be changes to the services we offer, but the scale and speed of these changes has taken us all by surprise.
This crisis has shown the NHS at its absolute best. You quickly learn to appreciate how important every person’s job is. It’s been a tough week and it’s hardly even begun. But I want you to know this: we are working tirelessly and will do our very best for you. See you on the other side.
The retired GP
Dr Martin Scurr, GP and Daily Mail columnist
Last Friday I was contacted by the General Medical Council to rejoin the NHS workforce as part of the government response to the Covid-19 virus.
I was expecting a letter. National news broadcasts made the announcement on Thursday and when an email and detailed questionnaire arrived the following morning I was impressed: someone is on the ball.
Dr Martin Scurr, GP and Daily Mail columnist, was contacted by the General Medical Council to rejoin the NHS workforce as part of the government response to the Covid-19 virus
There was a clear explanation of the need for recently retired doctors to return to work, along with an enquiry about my professional experience and questions about how much I would be prepared to do.
I had retired from clinical practice in April 2017 in the wake of a long illness which left me breathless and feeble. Three years on, I did not hesitate to agree to come back to the frontline.
I am now fit as a flea, so why wouldn’t I respond to the call for help? The problem is not just a shortage of ventilators and equipment, it is a shortage of experienced personnel skilled in the care of the seriously ill.
In May 1940 my father, at the age of 20, was anaesthetising casualties as they came off the boats following the retreat from Dunkirk. Now, as I write, my own son is an anaesthetist at a London hospital, and I welcome an opportunity to put my shoulder back to the wheel. I am awaiting a further briefing about how I can be of value. Although I have expressed reservations about face-to-face care of sick patients, I am most concerned about the elderly, who are isolated and who are not deemed suitable for active treatment.
I am in that age group and hope to offer my support.
The medical student
Harriet Loney, 24, from Middlewich, Cheshire, completed her medical finals at the University of Oxford on Friday, March 13 — and minutes later, volunteered to help admit Covid-19 patients at John Radcliffe Hospital.
After six years of studying to be a doctor, I was due to be packing my swimsuit and stethoscope this week and flying to Australia for the final placement of my study, the chance to work abroad.
Instead, I’m reporting for volunteer shifts at the A&E department at the John Radcliffe Hospital.
It feels slightly unreal, as I stand at the doorway and assess patients as they arrive, that I only sat my final exam ten days ago. New patients are coming in every few minutes, many in respiratory distress and everyone is scared — particularly the families who arrive with them.
As a volunteer, I have the time to sit with relatives, explain what is happening and talk to them about symptoms.
Yesterday, one woman burst into tears. She’d come into hospital with her elderly father, who was ill with a blood infection.
She told me her mother — who remained at home — was displaying symptoms of Covid-19. She was terrified her mother’s condition could suddenly worsen, but I reassured her that she was doing a good job of nursing her at home.
Harriet Loney, 24, from Middlewich, Cheshire, completed her medical finals at the University of Oxford on Friday, March 13 — and minutes later, volunteered to help admit Covid-19 patients at John Radcliffe Hospital
So far I have completed four shifts and I’ve learned not only about medicine but so much about the interaction with patients and their families. I am convinced this experience will make me a better doctor.
It took me just a few minutes to decide to volunteer. Straight after our final prescribing paper, we were called in to a lecture hall for a meeting.
The university medical team asked if anyone wanted to volunteer to help in A&E as the NHS had released a call-out for help from medical students to be healthcare workers. I’m interested in emergency medicine, so I didn’t hesitate, and 24 of us signed up to help.
Our training was on our first shift, six days later. I was nervous, because nobody knows what to expect, and I still wake up each day and don’t know what’s going to happen.
When I told my parents what I was going to do, they were proud. They weren’t afraid of me being exposed to the virus because I reassured them that any patient with symptoms is given a mask. And because of all the precautions, I’m not much more worried about catching the virus in hospital than when I go to the shops.
Since my first day volunteering, I’ve been at the door of the A&E department, greeting patients as they come in, and assessing them. I have a list of questions to ask them, to identify possible Covid-19 patients.
If they display the symptoms, they’re given a mask to wear and sent into the respiratory section, to keep them from infecting other patients. I’ve not yet tended patients on the respiratory side of A&E, where staff wear masks and gloves.
General A&E is quieter than normal, but we’re still seeing accident victims, very sick children and patients raced in with other ailments. I think everyone is treating the NHS with new respect, and I hope that’s something that stays with us when this crisis is over.
I’m working four to eight-hour shifts with healthcare assistants to take blood and put up drips. I think my most useful role is comforting and informing relatives. Volunteers are often the only ones who have time to console them.
I am scared because nobody knows if they’ll catch Covid-19, or how ill they may become. But we’re trained to cope under pressure.
Every day, there’s so many more cases, but retired staff are coming back and with research moving so fast, our guidelines change every day.
At the start of each shift, I check to see what new symptoms to look out for. I became a doctor to save lives — that’s what I hope I’m doing now, just sooner than I expected.
MP returning to duty
Dr James Davies, 40, MP for Vale of Clwyd, lives in Prestatyn with wife Nina, 38, a nurse, and their sons Wilfred, six, and Ralph, three.
He is returning to work as a GP in his community when Parliament takes its Easter break.
It’s my duty to help my NHS colleagues as they battle each day to treat corona-hit patients, and I hope to restart work as a GP when the House of Commons soon finishes for Easter.
Dr James Davies, 40, MP for Vale of Clwyd, lives in Prestatyn with wife Nina, 38, a nurse, and their sons Wilfred, six, and Ralph, three
If I need to work beyond that, I will do. Thankfully, I’m up to date with my annual medical appraisals, I am still on the GPs’ Medical Register — an online list of all doctors — and have my insurance, so it should be straightforward for me to get back to work. I kept these up for my own future — politics is a precarious business — plus it keeps me in touch with reality.
I qualified 16 years ago and worked as a GP in North Wales and Cheshire until I became an MP in 2017. I decided to return to being a GP last week as the crisis worsened and I saw that all hands are needed on the deck. It was the right thing to do.
I will still work as an MP and I am hearing from many constituents who are worried about coronavirus and this is another way I can support and serve my community.
My wife Nina is a community nurse and works part-time, but is supportive of me going back to front-line NHS work and is making herself available as and when she can for extra work. I am aware that all front-line NHS staff face risks every day they are treating corona patients, but so do all the key workers who are going over and above duty to do their bit.
I’ve worked in many surgeries over the years and I have said I am willing to do out-of-hours surgeries, weekend and night shifts and home visits in my area — I will support my medical colleagues in whatever way I can.
I am fearful of what is ahead. It is going to get worse before it gets better, but if everyone follows NHS safety guidelines, we will get through this.
Dr Davies said: ‘It’s my duty to help my NHS colleagues as they battle each day to treat corona-hit patients, and I hope to restart work as a GP when the House of Commons soon finishes for Easter’
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