Consultant warns risk of overwhelming NHS 'very, very high'

Bristol Royal Infirmary
The Bristol Royal Infirmary. Credit: ITV

A Bristol consultant has warned the risk of the NHS being overwhelmed is “very high” as another national lockdown begins.

Claudia Paoloni, who is president of Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) and a consultant anaesthetist in Bristol, said the national lockdown “should be a message to every single person how serious the situation is”.

Speaking to the BBC on the Today show, she said while the South West has not been hit as harshly as the rest of the country, patients are being brought to the region to ease pressure on hospitals elsewhere.

She said: “We have taken on some patients from outside of the region which is part of this mutual help.

“So where areas become under extra pressure, the other areas have to absorb, or try to help each other out which is not a mean undertaking and it’s not something that people do lightly because it’s actually quite a difficult situation when you’re at the point of having to move critical care patients across the country.”

South West infection rate

Hospitals in the South West have seen a rise in Covid-19 patients in recent weeks, with some already seeing more than a quarter of beds taken up by people with coronavirus.

Dr Paoloni said: “We don’t have as much capacity (as during the first wave) because we have quite rightly been trying to keep elective work going whereas in the first wave we actually cleared capacity.

“We stopped normal surgery to make space but we haven’t done that because that wasn’t helping the health of the whole population who didn’t have covid.

“We have been trying to do everything. The workforce have been working flat out throughout the summer from the first wave through until this wave. If it’s not been covid work directly it’s been catch-up work and now we’re in the situation where we have a really high risk - the risk of overwhelming the NHS in the next few weeks is very, very high."

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