Plea for medical students to staff ICU wards as Covid hospitalisations surge

27 December 2020, 16:15

File photo: A general view of a Welsh Air Ambulance flying at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.
File photo: A general view of a Welsh Air Ambulance flying at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff. Picture: Getty

By Joe Cook

A Welsh health board issued an urgent appeal on social media for medical students to help in critical care, as hospitals across the UK face growing pressure from the number of Covid-19 patients.

At around 9.15pm on Boxing Day, the Cardiff and Value University Health Board put out an appeal on social media calling for "assistance from medical students or other staff groups who have previously supported with proning patients", the process where people are turned onto their front to help with breathing.

The call comes after LBC revealed that the same board ran out of ICU beds last weekend, as Covid-19 hospitalisations continue to rise in Wales and the rest of the UK.

Capacity shrunk to its lowest level of just 41 beds, less than half of the 81 that were available at the start of December.

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Today, the health board tweeted: "Critical care unit remains extremely busy due to Covid-19 and winter pressures. Staffing has been challenging however the position has improved within the last 24 hours.

"The unit remains open. Thank you to everyone who has contacted us with offers of support."

They added that there was now "no need to call us".

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The staffing issues are not only limited to Wales, with a Covid advisor to the British Medical Association telling the Sunday Mirror that one in 10 NHS staff off sick at some hospital trusts

Dr David Strain, who is also a hospital consultant in Exeter, said: “The NHS has been running on just about enough doctors and nurses for 10 to 15 years. So with up to 10 per cent of healthcare workers off sick, there are no longer enough."

"It is why we can’t open the Nightingale hospitals.”

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Cases numbers are continuing to grow in Wales, with 4,142 cases recorded from 9am on Christmas Eve to 9am on Boxing Day.

All non-essential shops and hospitality venues closed across the whole of Wales as part of their Tier 4 lockdown measures.

However, despite this, Christmas bubbles were permitted to go ahead, with families able to meet up indoors with one other household on the day itself.

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Dr Giri Shankar, Incident Director for Covid-19 at Public Health Wales said: "As indicated by the Welsh Government, the immediate introduction of new restrictions is related to the identification of a new more transmissible variant of Coronavirus.

"Public Health Wales has been working with UK partners to investigate and respond to this variant.

Dr Hankar added, that they urge "everyone to follow the rules, to avoid transmission of Coronavirus and to protect everyone in our communities, including the most vulnerable.”

Meanwhile, in Scotland, medical leaders have warned the NHS could be facing a "perfect storm of challenges" this winter, "with services already severely stretched".

Members of the Scottish Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties have spoken out amid concerns that the health service may not be able to cope with a further surge in Covid-19 infections and could be "overwhelmed".

They stated: "We know there is hope on the horizon with the rollout of a national immunisation programme, with further vaccines likely to be approved shortly.

"However, it will take months for this to make a significant difference, and the short-term situation facing our NHS and public health services remains bleak."

"We are gravely concerned that this could lead to the NHS being overwhelmed," they added.