Anti-depressants, sleeping pills and family worries: Covid's impact on hospital staff

Video report by ITV News Health Editor Emily Morgan.

In a series of special reports this week, Emily and her team are visiting hospitals across England to witness first hand the pressure the health service is under.

NHS staff have revealed to ITV News the damage coronavirus is having on their mental and physical health, with one nurse admitting she was prescribed anti-depressants and sleeping pills to cope with the stress.

Jess Edwards, a critical care nurse at Walsall hospital, said her profession has left her on the brink both in and out of the workplace.

Ms Edwards said: “It’s getting progressively more difficult as the time goes on.

“We’ve been doing this for nearly 12 months now.”

She added: “I’m now on anti-depressants and sleeping pills because I was having panic attacks several times a day as soon as I thought about work.”

Across the hospital trust, staff are having to treat 25 Covid patients in intensive care when normal capacity is just nine.

In the other wards at the trust, there are 260 Covid patients currently being treated - almost double the number the trust saw during the first wave.

These additional pressures are understandably taking their toll on staff.

Donna Lawley broke down in tears as she recalled having to inform family members their loved ones were dying from Covid-19 and that they won’t be able to say their goodbyes in person.

Ms Lawley said: “The parts where family can’t come in and see their loved ones and you’re having to have difficult discussions over the phone, when all they want to do is tell their family they love them…”

She added: “It’s really becoming a struggle now.”

But the pressure caused by coronavirus isn’t just impacting the hospital staff who treat patients.

Holly Rummins, a cleaner at Walsall hospital, has two children with special educational needs and lives in constant fear she may bring the virus home to her family.

“It is scary for us all. I’ve got special needs children at home. I have a complex needs child, so it is important that we keep safe,” she said.

“We spend a lot of time cleaning these areas too, which I think puts us at a more vulnerable position.”