Publish date: 14 January 2021

The enormous pressure our staff are under was the focus of a powerful BBC News report about the surge in Covid-19 cases broadcast on Wednesday 6 January.

Medical editor Fergus Walsh returned to University College Hospital to speak to staff and patients about the seriousness of the situation we are facing.

Dr Alice Carter compared it to an elastic band that is close to snapping. "It gets to a point where you stretch so far it never returns to baseline. It's not going to take much more for that elastic band to break, and that's the real fear for us at the moment."

Dr Jim Down added: “We’ve got three times as many critically ill patients in this hospital than we normally have. We’ve managed to stretch and spread to cover that but it cannot go on forever.” 

Fergus reported from our intensive care unit at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic last April and then again in May. This time, he said he was struck by the “immense physical and mental toll” the pandemic is taking on our staff.

Deputy sister Ashleigh Shillingford told him: “I’m scared, sad, petrified, worried……We’re not just getting old people, we’re getting young people too – my age.”

Fergus spoke to three patients, all of whom had a strong message for the public about taking the disease seriously.

Gerald Williams, 58, had been shielding but he still caught coronavirus. He said: "All of a sudden, Covid knocked on my door and it's frightening - you don't know how you're getting your next breath.

"People are moaning and groaning. They need to get a life. Forget about meeting your mate, stay home. No-one is invulnerable."

Another patient, Attila Karayel, 67, said: “It (coronavirus) hit me, went bang. I couldn’t breathe at all. I didn’t think I would make it…..In the short time I have been in hospital, I have seen a couple of people who didn’t make it.”

Heavily pregnant Rachel Arfin, 38, praised the care she is receiving from intensive care staff: “All the time, they are coming and checking, monitoring that the baby is happy. They are looking after two people in one. They are saving lives.”

BBC's Fergus Walsh reports from UCLH

Further coverage and the BBC’s previous reports: