Scotland's Covid frontline: NHS staff at Monklands Hospital on the fight against the second wave

  • Video report by ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith

  • Words by Karen Goudie, chief of nursing services at University Hospital Monklands

This week we took a very difficult decision.

We postponed all non-urgent planned procedures and a range of outpatient appointments here at University Hospital Monklands, and at NHS Lanarkshire’s two other acute hospitals.

It’s not something that’s done lightly, but it reflects the immense impact on hospital services caused by this extremely testing phase of the coronavirus pandemic.

The new variant of Covid-19, which spreads more easily, is presenting us with difficult decisions and we’ve seen our beds in wards becoming full and intense pressure on capacity in our intensive care unit.

Added to that is the increase in demand for healthcare that comes every winter, regardless of the virus.

Pausing these non-urgent services frees up space and staff as we face a doubling of the number of Covid patients across Lanarkshire’s hospitals in the coming days.

We’re all worried by what we see just now.

We’re now treating more young people and some of our older patients are struggling to recover as quickly as those affected by the first wave of the virus.

My fantastic colleagues have been working tirelessly since the virus first appeared last year.

I feel very emotional when I’m asked how our staff are coping. As I walk around the hospital, I can see they’re tired. Some have told me they’re at the end of their tether - they don’t know where they’re going to get the energy for the difficult weeks ahead.

Dr McGoldrick on the pressures staff are under in the hospital

So now we find ourselves caring for our staff as well as caring for our patients.

We’re trying our best with wellbeing support for our colleagues - but there’s no getting away from the fact it’s taking a toll.

Despite that, they’re so committed, they say they’ll just need to get through it.

And the public can do their bit to help them get through it.

Please follow the national guidance - stay at home to support your local hospital and help to reduce admissions.

Remember 'FACTS' guidance: Wear a face covering, avoid crowded places, clean your hand regularly, keep a two-metre distance and self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms.

We also want to stress that people should stop and think before going to A&E.

There are lots of other qualified experts in our community who can safely advise people more quickly on many health conditions.

It’s extremely important that we help people access the right help, at the right time and we keep A&E free for emergencies.

We’d advise anyone who is feeling unwell to visit the NHS Inform website for advice on self-care in the first instance, and the NHS24 111 phone service can provide urgent health advice out of hours.

We realise it can be difficult to stick to the rules and I’ve seen comments on social media that show some people don’t understand how serious this is.

It’s real, it’s not something to ignore and it can strike anyone. We’ve seen people, young and old, severely unwell – some so ill they ended up in critical care needing a ventilator.

I’ve just told my nursing colleagues that we need to brace ourselves for the next four to six weeks. And we really need the public to follow the guidance to help ease the pressure on our hospitals as much as possible during these difficult days ahead.

  • Jackie McColl, deputy director of communications for NHS Lanarkshire, on the role broadcasters play in the Covid-19 pandemic

Pictures hit home to those at home.

The situation with the coronavirus is becoming more critical by the day and the acute rise in cases requires the NHS to try to fight back with every weapon we may use.

One of those weapons is television.

Through showing images of Covid wards, we hope to share our concerns about the effects of the current situation on our staff and to convince the public that they should redouble their efforts to keep coronavirus at bay and to keep themselves out of hospital, for their good and the good of everyone else.

Peter Smith and his team filmed a special report from the wards at University Hospital Monklands. Credit: ITV News

We wish to invite television news teams into our hospitals to share with the public, the types of concerns we feel about how the coronavirus is currently affecting the NHS and, to share our sense of alarm at how it is affecting people of all ages and backgrounds.

It is essential to emphasise that no-one is safe from this disease.

People may only believe the situation is critical if they may see so for themselves.

If they are shown how things look inside a hospital and if it does alarm them, that may be enough to get them to stick to the rules – if they have not been doing so – or to stick to the rules more fully if they have been slightly lax in observing them.

It helps that our front-line staff are our most trusted spokespeople.

Pressures on staff are a reality and who could fail to be moved by the onscreen testimony of a nurse in relation to the daily stresses that our staff are suffering.

Who would not listen to the eloquent testimony of a consultant, seen in close-up, explaining the true severity of this disease and what it is inflicting on our wards?

Emily Morgan visited patients at Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport. Credit: ITV News

Patients too are absolutely vital to us.

Their stories explain exactly what is happening to them and the turmoil it is causing to themto find themselves one of the unfortunate victims of coronavirus.

There are young people in hospitals. This is a reality. If people can see themselves reflected in their peers it may help persuade them that they are not exempt from coronavirus, either through youth or through previous good health.

We need to underline to the public our health messaging and ensure that people comply with the rules. For that, television can be the perfect ally.

Life inside a Covid ward or an Intensive Care Unit is tense, taut, trying. For everyone. If we can show that reality, it may translate into support from the public.

Numbers are rising and that means that everyone, everywhere, is more likely to catch coronavirus.

People may think they are doing the right thing but may still be taking chances with their health.

If they see, though television, that they too may end up as the 20-something, 30-something, 40-something or 50-something in the coronavirus ward, shocked to be there, it may just be enough to persuade them to observe better practices to combat this virus.

It may just be enough to save lives.