Nurses have been pictured wearing clinical waste bags on their heads and feet at an NHS hospital that has been overwhelmed by coronavirus.
Northwick Park hospital, in Harrow, London, declared an emergency situation on Thursday after all of its critical care beds were filled with patients.
It took 24 hours for the hospital to stand down – after hurriedly transferring patients to nearby hospitals – but desperate nurses have issued an urgent plea for proper masks, gowns and gloves amid fears of an inadequate supply.
The hospital has reported six deaths due to COVID-19, and has dozens of patients in intensive care.
Nurses have been pictured wearing clinical waste bags on their heads at Northwick Park hospital, which declared an emergency on Thursday when it ran out of critical care beds
Nurses pictured wearing clinical waste bags on their heads at the hospital, prompting fears it may have an inadequate supply
Shocking photos of exhausted nurses wearing yellow-coloured waste bags on their head at Northwick hospital have been shared on social media.
‘We are so disheartened with what we face day by day, night by night,’ read the caption.
‘Improvising PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment) to at least try to protect us from our infectious patients, buying our own wellington boots that is said to be re-imbursed. This is how our prime minister says that we are stockpiling PPEs!
‘We have to stay brave for our colleagues who are off sick, families and our patients. It just made us cry inside but we show brave and smiling faces to everyone.’
One nurse, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Daily Telegraph they started using waste bags as they had ‘no choice’.
‘We could catch the virus ourselves,’ she said, ‘We need proper PPE kit now, or nurses and doctors are going to die. It’s as simple as that.
‘We’re treating our own colleagues on the ward after they caught the virus from patients. How can that be right?
‘There are so many younger people here on ventilation – many with asthma or diabetes. They can’t stop coughing, they just cough and cough and cough and they can’t help it.’
Northwick Park Hospital, in Harrow, north-west London, on Thursday declared its intensive care unit was completely full. It freed up space after transferring patients but could hit capacity within hours
The nurse also said even her own family doesn’t want her to come home, in case she’s carrying coronavirus.
The hospital, which is run by London North West University Healthcare Trust, is expected to be overwhelmed again within hours.
Queen Elizabeth Hospital and University Hospital Lewisham, which are run by the same trust on the south-east side of the city, are reportedly unable to admit all critically ill patients to intensive care.
Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust has reportedly been turning away patients, although the trust denies this. Pictured, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich
Dr Lisa Anderson, a consultant cardiologist at St George’s hospital in London, told BBC Radio 4 this morning that critical staff are not getting the protection they need.
‘The government changed the guidelines for protection equipment on Monday,’ she said, ‘and they’re no longer complaint with WHO recommendations’.
‘So whereas the WHO says you have to wear a full gown and a visor, we only have to wear a simple face mask, short gloves and a little pinafore apron when we’re dealing with patients up to 12 hours at a time.
‘The equipment has arrived but because they have changed the rules where you can only wear that equipment… patients are being treated without protection.’
She denied rumours that the NHS has run out of essential equipment.
To help units handle admissions, it is thought they may have to impose a clinical threshold of 60 years old for admissions in order to hold back da flood of patients.
The number of cases reported in London as of Friday, shown on the map above
London is at the epicentre of the UK’s spiralling outbreak and yesterday recorded 18 more deaths, taking its total to 69 out of more than 1,200 cases.
Many trusts around the capital are reportedly already at capacity or exceeding it, at a time when the outbreak is meant to have barely started.
Barnet, Lewisham and Greenwich, Epsom and St Helier, North Middlesex and Hillingdon, are all reportedly struggling.
A senior director at an unnamed London health trust has told the Health Service Journal that the situation is already ‘f****** petrifying’.
‘The thing people aren’t really talking about yet is that we are going to have to quickly agree some clinical thresholds for admissions to intensive care,’ he said, ‘This is what the Italians had to do, and whether it’s set at (a maximum age of) 60 or whatever, we are going to have to do something similar.
‘There’s no way we’re going to be able to scale up to the level we need otherwise.’
Lewisham and Greenwich hospital was reported to be turning away patients yesterday due to a lack of capacity, but a spokesman said this was untrue.
Two London hospitals (pictured, University Hospital Lewisham) are turning away coronavirus patients because they are running out of beds, staff have claimed. This was denied by the trust
A spokesman for London North West University healthcare trust said: ‘We can continue to provide our staff with appropriate Personal Protective Equipment, in line with national guidance from Public Health England.
‘We are frequently writing to our staff to remind them what protective equipment they should be weareing and how they can access it, and will be issuing a reminder to ensure that all our teams have the most up to date information.’
Public Health England does not advise nurses to wear foot covers to care for patients with COVID-19.