Health service film tells how medics coped as Covid spread

NHS staff open up about their experiences of working during the height of the pandemic.

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NHS Lothian has released a new film documenting what life was like for staff working on the frontline during the height of the pandemic.

The film – named Pandemic: NHS Lothian’s response to Covid-19 – aims to highlight the extraordinary work carried out by medics and help future generations understand the reality of the time.

Staff at NHS Lothian were the first to care for a coronavirus patient in Scotland, and also dealt with the first death.

An emotional premiere took place at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, before the film was released to the public on YouTube.

The one-hour documentary is told through a series of interviews, videos and photographs of staff who risked their own lives to save others, and includes some STV News footage. 

Senior nurse Diane McCabe told filmmakers about the heartbreak of caring for couples in the same room, only for one of them to die.

She said: “Many a time, we had a husband and wife in the same room and sometimes one of them died and one of them survived, so things like that were difficult and they are the things that stick in my head.”

Alex Gair, a domestic’s supervisor at the Western General, recalled life in the intensive care unit at the height of the pandemic.

He said: “The first time I went to ICU, I’ll take that image to the day I die, because it was horrendous – people lifeless, ventilators.”

Another nurse from the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh recalled how she had to work through the pain of losing her mother to Covid. 

Frances Scott said: “My mum got it and died. That was bad and then you had to come back to work and it was still Covid.  

“I don’t think you will ever get past losing someone with Covid because it’s so different. I just hate Covid. ” 

The project is part of NHS Lothian’s wider commemorative plans, which are supported by its official charity partner, the Edinburgh and Lothian Health Foundation.

The film features music from Scottish singer and songwriter, Marina Rolink, written especially to thank all NHS Lothian staff.   

Calum Campbell, chief executive of NHS Lothian said: “While this film cannot do justice to the work of every team or service, it offers a flavour of the outstanding commitment of all our staff. 

“We are extremely proud of how they responded to the pandemic and how hard our teams continue to work.  

“We recognise the journey is far from over. Covid is still with us, pressures on staffing are severe and the effects of the pandemic will be felt for a long time to come. 

“But we have learned a great deal and will put that to good use as we plan for the future. We want to thank all our staff for their continued exceptional service and our patients and the wider public of Edinburgh and the Lothians for the support they show our staff.”