Dispatches from University Hospital Southampton; Covid-19 and loss of smell; intensive care access; coronavirus home care March 31, 2020

from Inside Health· ·

When hospitals are full of patients, they're said to be "hot". The coronavirus crisis will push up the temperature of hospitals across the UK and in the first in a special series of weekly dispatches from the medical front line, producer Erika Wright will be taking the temperature of University Hospital Southampton - or The General - in Hampshire (which services almost two million people in the south of England) as they cope with the influx of Covid-19 patients. In this first dispatch, Erika talks to the Divisional Director for Medicine, Dr Trevor Smith, who says as patients have been …



When hospitals are full of patients, they're said to be "hot". The coronavirus crisis will push up the temperature of hospitals across the UK and in the first in a special series of weekly dispatches from the medical front line, producer Erika Wright will be taking the temperature of University Hospital Southampton - or The General - in Hampshire (which services almost two million people in the south of England) as they cope with the influx of Covid-19 patients. In this first dispatch, Erika talks to the Divisional Director for Medicine, Dr Trevor Smith, who says as patients have been moved out of this large teaching hospital to make space for coronavirus patients, the hospital's current temperature reading is "cold", but all staff know that this will soon change. This virus is deeply frightening for everybody, but often for older people and those with underlying health conditions it is even worse. The fear is that if hospitals are overflowing, then crude cut-offs by, for example, age, might determine who does or doesn't, get a a bed in intensive care. But Dr Mark Roberts, consultant in acute and geriatric medicine and chair of the British Geriatric Society in Northern Ireland, tells Claudia that health care professionals don't and wouldn't make such arbitrary decisions based on age. Instead, he says, decisions about access to intensive care beds (or in-patient care) will continue to be made at the bedside, with compassion, and with a focus on who has the greatest capacity to benefit. Some people have already decided that they won't go to hospital if NHS services are overwhelmed but they do want reassurance that they would get urgent care at home should they become seriously ill. Retired GP Dr Lyn Jenkins has written to the Prime Minister calling for this to be addressed as a priority. He's in good health, only 69 years old, but believes that he has a moral obligation not to use up scarce hospital resources if critical care beds can be given to younger people. For those who need it, he wants a quick response team to bring pain relief and supplementary oxygen and importantly, the presence of another person, a carer, so people who were very sick wouldn't be alone. GP and Inside Health regular Dr Margaret McCartney talks to Claudia about supplies of personal protective equipment and whether long-promised supplies are finally arriving and she delves into the evidence to find out whether the loss of a sense of smell or taste could be a symptom of coronavirus. Listener Rachel says she can't smell cheese, garlic or lavender oil and she's worried that she could have the virus. Producer: Fiona Hill