The director of acute and emergency medicine at Princess Royal University Hospital has spoken of "huge challenges" faced by the department during the pandemic.

Dr Sarah Frankton, Clinical Director for Acute and Emergency Medicine and Acting Corporate Medical Director Operations, has led staff treating coronavirus patients in the hospital, which has so far retained capacity and adequate supplies of PPE for frontline staff.

However, the sharp increase in need for care over the last month has inevitably put strain on workers, many recently redeployed, who are required to work long hours.

Dr Frankton, who is also a consultant physician, said: "There are huge challenges that have come with our COVID-19 response.

"Looking after a larger number of sick patients who cannot speak to their families in person at one of the most difficult times is something that takes its toll on all staff.

"The long hours can be very tough.

"Of course, the task of helping to design the emergency rotas and redeploy a large number of staff in just over a week was a huge challenge; this is something that would normally take several months.

"Fortunately, there has been tremendous support from the Medical Staffing team, who have helped with the organisation and to support staff in their redeployed roles."

Stocks of PPE have importantly met the demands of staff, with specific clinical areas having access to a central store whenever required.

This contrasts to reports from many parts of the country, where the mounting death toll of key workers has been linked to shortages of protective equipment.

Dr Frankton said: "We have been supplied with PPE to be used as guided by Public Heath England.

"King’s Facilities Management (KFM) have done an excellent job in making sure that the PRUH receive enough stock to supply the clinical areas.

"Deliveries are made to a central store, so if a clinical area is running low on supplies, this may be escalated to the central store in order to meet the demand.

The hospital underwent a transformation in March to prepare itself for the pandemic, splitting into separate wards dedicated to COVID-19 positive patients and COVID-19 negative patient. 

The intensive care unit trebled its number of beds, supported by doctors and nurses redeployed from specialties with cancelled activity. 

Dr Frankton said: "We were very well prepared for this thanks to the dedication and enormous hard work of our Emergency Department, Medical and Surgical Teams, Anaesthetists, Respiratory and Intensive Care Teams, Radiology Department, Obstetric and Paediatric teams and of course our wonderful nursing staff and clinical site practitioners.

"Hospital staff and volunteers have pulled out all the stops to deliver care in new ways."

The director also made clear that staff have welcomed the increase in testing availabilty, as it "meant that colleagues with a negative swab were able to come back to work more quickly, rather than having to self-isolate for seven or 14 days."

Reflecting on what has sustained morale in testing times, Dr Frankton said: "We have all been very touched when members of the community have sent in food, gifts or home-made scrubs.

"We really cannot express how very much this is appreciated.

"We are so pleased that many people with COVID-19 have recovered and have been able to safely return to their families, including a 100-year-old patient who made a full recovery last month.

"Equally, it’s so sad that some of our patients have died. Our thoughts are with their families at this difficult time."