A&E doctor warns of 'carnage and chaos' in UK hospitals amid coronavirus outbreak

An A&E doctor has told of "carnage and chaos" in the UK's hospitals amid the coronavirus outbreak.

In a letter read out at the Health Select Committee, the London medic wrote they were "in shock" about the situation and they felt "like we're being thrown to the wolves", cautioning: "Some of us are going to die."

Also at the Committee, the Government's Chief Scientific advisor warned that keeping the Covid-19 death toll to 20,000 or less would be a "good outcome".

On Tuesday, the number of people confirmed to have died in the UK after contracting Covid-19 rose to 71.

Those who died were aged between 45 and 93 - the youngest death to date - and had underlying health conditions.

It was also announced the number of confirmed cases in the UK jumped by 407 to reach 1,950.

  • Chair of the Commons Health Committee Jeremy Hunt says more testing for Covid-19 is needed:

The letter was read out by Chair Committee and former health secretary Jeremy Hunt as he questioned the Chief Executive and Medical Director of the NHS, along with the Government's Chief Scientific advisor.

The letter also told of a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers.

"It's absolute carnage in A&E, utter chaos.

"We don't have any proper PPE, we're being given paper gowns, masks... and not everyone even gets those.

"Literally the doctors seeing the sickest patients - the ones with suspected heart attacks... sepsis, and all they have to protect themselves is a bit of paper across their mouths."

Those questioned responded that a hotline had been established to request immediate supplies.

At the hearing, the Government's Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance, also said reducing the number of Covid-19 deaths to 20,000 would be "a good outcome", as he presented the latest evidence over the outbreak.

When asked about lowering the number of deaths from hundreds of thousands if strict measures are not take, Sir Patrick said: "That is the hope, that we can get it down to that and to put that into perspective, every year in seasonal flu the number of deaths is thought to be about 8,000 excess deaths.

"So if we can get this down into numbers of 20,000 and below, that's a good outcome in terms of where we would hope to get to with this outbreak."

"But I mean it's still horrible, I mean that's still an enormous amount of deaths and it's still enormous pressure on the health service," he added.

  • ITV News Health Correspondent Emily Morgan gives insight into what NHS workers are saying about the situation:

Sir Patrick also suggested there could be as many as 55,000 coronavirus cases already in the UK.

His comments comes as the number of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 in the UK has reached 1,950 - an increase of 407 in 24 hours.

Mr Hunt asked whether the expected death rate was one fatality for every 1,000 cases, which would mean that there is "potentially 55,000 cases".

Asked if that felt right, Sir Patrick said: "We've tried to get a handle on that in Sage (the scientific advisory group for emergencies) and if you put all the modelling information together, that's a reasonable ballpark way of looking at it."

Sir Patrick could not confirm whether there have been any young deaths but added the vast majority of deaths are elderly or have underlying health conditions.

He continued: "At the moment the UK has done around 44,000 tests...that clearly is not going to be enough going forward."

He said the priority of testing would be patients in hospitals in intensive care units, clustered outbreaks and referrals from GPs.

He told the Health Select Committee: "I think we need a big increase in testing and that is what I am pushing for really hard to make that happen.

"What you don't want is everyone coming to the hospital to get tested.

"The quicker we come to a true community testing, the better it will be."

A general view of a person shopping in a supermarket in Chester. Credit: PA

When asked about why there hasn't been any school closures and why the current policies are different from other countries, Sir Patrick said: "School closing is lower down in the list, it's not that it doesn't have any effects but it can also have complicated affects."

He added: "It's a complicated one...decisions will be made when they need to be made."

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