Covid-19: A year like no other for our hospitals

Richard was reunited with his wife Rachael, and is now looking forward to a fish and chip dinner and

Heart transplant patient Richard Priest with his wife Rachael as he leaves Royal Papworth Hospital, Cambridge, after being in the hospital for more than 200 days, throughout the entire coronavirus pandemic - Credit: PA Media

For Cambridgeshire hospitals it has been a year like no other. 

Covid-19 saw to that.  

The facts and figures, presented daily on our TV screens, to begin with were reminiscent of the lugubrious Ian McDonald during the Falklands War. 

This sign appeared on the road leading up to Hinchingbrooke Hospital during the first lockdown.

This sign appeared on the road leading up to Hinchingbrooke Hospital during the first lockdown. - Credit: Archant

Nightly throughout that 1980s war, his monotone voice could be heard delivering updates on the latest casualty figures and the battle to regain the islands.  

The pandemic of 2020 once brought us nightly bulletins, not though of a war being fought not 8,000 miles on a remote South Atlantic archipelago. 

Staff cheer Richard out of the ward on which he spent most of his days in hospital. Credit: PA/ Joe

Staff cheer Richard out of the ward on which he spent most of his days in hospital. Credit: PA/ Joe Giddens - Credit: Archant

This time it was a battle at home, a long, frightening, menacing bid to combat the spread of coronavirus. 

Care homes became one epicentre of the pandemic, as the number of deaths soared, but it was our hospitals that experienced the stark reality of trying to cope with multiple and soaring cases. 

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And where the NHS, founded on July 5, 1948, was called upon to deliver its finest hour.  

With a mass vaccination programme now well under way, and the outcomes from lockdown gradually allowing a sense of normality to gradually return, hospitals are reflecting on the past momentous and challenging 12 months.  

The NHS truckers convoy turned up at Peterborough City Hospital to present more than £18,000 to hosp

The NHS truckers convoy turned up at Peterborough City Hospital to present more than £18,000 to hospital charities. On the same night the clap for heroes saw 300 motor bikes and 50 taxis join in. It was a spectacular moment, Picture: TERRY HARRIS - Credit: Harry Rutter / Terry Harris

The North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust runs Hinchingbrooke Hospital, Peterborough City Hospital and Stamford. 

March 16, 2021, is for them what they describe as a “pivotal moment for staff”. It is a year to the day since they admitted their first patient with Covid-19.   

“The year that followed has seen the trust care for more than 2,700 patients with Covid-19,” said a spokesperson. 

The NHS truckers convoy turned up at Peterborough City Hospital to present more than £18,000 to hosp

The NHS truckers convoy turned up at Peterborough City Hospital to present more than £18,000 to hospital charities. On the same night the clap for heroes saw 300 motor bikes and 50 taxis join in. It was a spectacular moment, Picture: TERRY HARRIS - Credit: Harry Rutter / Terry Harris

“Over the course of the past 12 months, staff working in the trust’s hospitals in Peterborough, Huntingdon and Stamford have had to adapt the way they deliver care, constantly reacting and adapting to the rate of infection locally across our sites.” 

To mark the occasion, the trust will be publishing a special edition of its hospital magazine, The Pulse, which shares staff and patient stories and also some of the key events that have taken place throughout the year. 

A commemorative video will also be released, which shares footage of staff from a vast range of specialties sharing their personal experiences of the pandemic.  

In addition, the video will look back on the public support that has been shown for local NHS services, including donations, public applause and a Spitfire flypast at both the Peterborough and Hinchingbrooke sites. 

Hinchingbrooke Hospital nurses say special thank you to community for support shown during lockdown.

Hinchingbrooke Hospital nurses say special thank you to community for support shown during lockdown. Pictured is Jan, Sharon, Lindsay, Rose, Marion, Jackie, Karen, Josie, Alison, Poppy, Cate, Claire, Brian, Siobhan, Alita, Charlene, Kinga, Jo and Maui. Picture: NURSES - Credit: Archant

Caroline Walker, chief executive at North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It has been a prolonged period of unimaginable circumstances in our hospitals. 

“But it fills me with great pride that our staff have adapted amazingly well to meet these very different pressures.  

“Services have had to run differently; staff have had to work in unfamiliar areas and we have had to constantly react to support the changing numbers of Covid-positive patients in our hospitals.  

“Throughout it all, however, staff have worked tirelessly with the single aim of providing the best patient care. I would like to thank each and every one of them for the fantastic work they have done and continue to do.” 

Consultant in infectious diseases, Dr Effrossyni Gkrania-Klotsas of Addenbrooke's Hospital - Credit: Cambridge University...

Consultant in infectious diseases, Dr Effrossyni Gkrania-Klotsas of Addenbrooke's Hospital - Credit: Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust - Credit: Addenbrooke's

At Addenbrooke’s Hospital the challenge has been immense – and where one new challenge has been encountered and overcome on an almost daily basis.  

For one doctor this has been a special week, having been named as one of 20 doctors, nurses and researchers to be recognised for their life-saving work and "tireless fight" against the Covid pandemic. 

Consultant in infectious diseases, Dr Effrossyni Gkrania-Klotsas is part of a team from CUH and the University of Cambridge developing artificial intelligence algorithms to help doctors decide what action to take on the front-line, before patients reach a critical stage. 

She believes AI will result in improved patient triage and opportunities for research into personalised medicine, with the right treatment, given at the right time to more patients. 

The hospital has also just released data which suggests a significant drop in the spread of Covid-19 amongst staff following vaccination. 

It's one of the first indications from UK scientists that the Pfizer vaccine reduces the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, as well as protecting people from getting ill. 

The study by Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH) and the University of Cambridge analysed data from thousands of Covid-19 tests carried out each week on hospital staff who showed no signs of infection. 

The findings show a dramatic drop in the rate of positive tests amongst asymptomatic staff following vaccination.  

Dr Michael Weekes led the study and is an honorary consultant in infectious diseases at CUH. 

"What we found was that about two weeks after a single dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, hospital staff became four times less likely to become infected with Coronavirus. 


"And our study is important because we specifically examined staff who had no symptoms of infection, and so they didn't know they were infected with coronavirus and therefore were particularly likely to transmit the infection on to others.  


"And so, what this means is four times less transmissions to colleagues. “Four times less transmissions to vulnerable patients. And this means that hospitals will be even safer places to be cared for and to work. 


"However, the vaccine does not completely prevent transmission. And so social distancing, mask wearing, regular testing and hand washing remain as important as ever." 

Vaccination for health care workers on the CUH site began on 8 December 2020, with mass vaccination of staff from 8 January 2021. 

At Papworth Hospital, every day is about saving lives and pioneering new skills to combat heart disease. 

On April 4 last year Covid-19 intervened horribly and dramatically as the hospital confirmed that “sadly, a patient who had tested positive for Covid-19 has passed away at Royal Papworth Hospital.  

Cambridge Central Mosque has delivered hot meals to staff at the Royal Papworth Hospital battling th

Cambridge Central Mosque has delivered hot meals to staff at the Royal Papworth Hospital battling the coronavirus. Picture: ROYAL PAPWORTH HOSPITAL - Credit: Archant

“Our thoughts and condolences remain with the patient’s family and loved ones at this difficult time”. 

But like every other hospital throughout the land, Papworth found consolation and support from the public. 

Its optimism amidst the gloom can be seen from its most recent post to social media.  

It thanked everyone who had supported the hospital through the pandemic.  

“Through donations, gifts and fundraising, more than £2.4m has been raised to benefit our staff and patients, including food and health packages, psychological support and new equipment,” the hospital posted on Twitter.  

And it was that support from the public – of which there are thousands of instances throughout the country – that somehow has helped pull not only them through but us, too.  

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