Doctor shares images of a London coronavirus ward to show ‘unstaged’ reality of working on frontline
Written by on 6 January 2021
It’s rare to see images of the UK’s COVID wards now, with few journalists allowed access.
But an anaesthetist in London – who also happens to have a passion for photography – has been sharing “honest” and “personal” photographs of what is happening in what is currently one of the busiest hospitals in the country.
Dr Jon Williamson has been posting the photographs on Instagram in the hope the images will be seen by people who do not usually engage with news.
“The aim is to give a realistic, human perspective and a personal experience of COVID on the frontline in a way that feels authentic and unstaged,” he told Sky News.
In this photo, Dr Williamson explains, a bed is being prepared for the next patient after the previous person – a COVID-19 sufferer – passed away.
“An empty bed is quite a rare sight,” he says.
“Within a few hours, it was filled with a patient who needed to be intubated straight away for COVID.”
The NHS internal transfer process has meant many hospitals are just about managing to cope with new admissions, but still there are some which are running out of space.
Some patients are having to be taken straight into intensive care from A&E, as can be seen in this photo.
Here, a critically unwell patient is being wheeled to the ICU by medical staff.
When the patients reach ICU, many need to be intubated and will spend much of their time unconscious.
This next shot is from the patient’s perspective.
“It’s a patient who is sedated and intubated, so they’re unconscious,” says Dr Williamson. “It’s shot from the perspective of a patient on the unit and what they would see going on if they were awake.”
The image captures the busyness of the intensive care unit and all the staff involved in keeping things running.
While this patient may have been unconscious, others are waiting to be intubated or are being brought off ventilators – so this is what they would see.
The photos also capture the immense amount of work undertaken by staff in the ICU.
Coronavirus patients are often turned onto their stomachs, known to medical staff as proning, to help with their breathing.
“This image is quite striking with the wide-angle showing there’s a lot of attentive staff and care going into what’s going on,” says Dr Williamson.
“There’s actually a patient wrapped up beneath those blankets – it’s not an inanimate object that’s under there.
“It requires a lot of planning and a lot of staff and there’s a person at the centre of it.”
He says proning can be a “very physical task, especially when you’re wearing lots of PPE” and can involve all sorts of staff from the unit, including in this case the head nurse and the consultant in charge.
What is clear is the amount of teamwork needed.
In the photo below, two physiotherapists are helping each other with their PPE before entering a COVID ward.
They do not usually work in this environment but have been deployed to help nurses dealing with increasing numbers of coronavirus patients.
“It’s almost quite a sombre looking scene,” says Dr Williamson.
“I thought her pressing her mask into her face had a feeling of resolve around it and there was also this camaraderie.”