This week, the Charity hosted a panel discussion that offered a glimpse of life inside the hospitals as they responded to the biggest health crisis of our lifetime. The panel, chaired by newsreader, Mishal Husain, included Professor Susanna Price, the COVID-19 critical care lead at Royal Brompton, Lorraine Campbell, designated COVID-19 lead nurse, and Dr Brijesh Patel, chair of the hospitals’ COVID-19 research response.

The panellists were keen to stress how supporters’ generosity in donating to our COVID-19 Emergency appeal made a difference for staff and patients at Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals. They also explained how donations helped our teams contribute to a global research effort into COVID-19.

You donated food and toiletries

Our hospitals have talented and expert nursing staff experienced in caring for heart and lung patients. As the hospitals’ capacity for critical care patients increased threefold in a short space of time, many more nurses were trained. These nurses really stepped up, in a time that was worrying for everyone.

Our clinical staff were working 12-hour shifts in full PPE and living away from their families, so food and toiletries you donated to the hospital made such a difference.

“Around the time when there was panic buying when our staff left the hospital, they weren’t able to buy food. So, the extraordinary generosity of local restaurants, of donors … made such a difference to the staff,” Susanna said.

Lorraine agreed: “It’s really important that people don’t underestimate the impact of their generosity. For a nurse to turn up to her shift and not have to think about bringing her meals with them makes a massive difference. For example, going to the canteen and finding the farmers market was truly wonderful. It was very heartening and reminded our teams that society was behind them and thinking about them.”

Your donations bought new equipment

With your help, the Charity was able to fund additional equipment to help with the hospitals’ increased critical care capacity.

“In respect to equipment and kit, we were able to buy additional ECMO machines, additional ventilators, syringe drivers and ultrasound equipment. We were able to treat the increased number of critical patients on our wards, and your generosity made a lot of this possible,” Susanna said.

Your donations supported research into COVID-19

With your support, our specialist research teams have gained a much clearer understanding of the disease. As a specialist heart and lung centre, our hospitals have been well-positioned to provide both expert care for COVID-19 patients, including some of the sickest COVID-19 patients in the country who needed ECMO support and the specialist research to help minimise the disease’s impact.

Brij said: “Funding we’ve received, and I can’t overstate this, has really revolutionised what we’ve found. The Charity has funded the software that has gone into looking at the CT scans [of the patient’s lungs] and analysing them. It’s also funded a machine to analyse the way in which blood clots.” He added that blood from COVID-19 patients tends to be stickier. “It’s changed the way we see this disease and we’ve been able to communicate this with the rest of the world as soon as possible.”

Looking to the future

While our hospitals are confident in their ability to adapt to the new challenges the virus may bring in the future, there were several key messages Susanna, Lorraine and Brij wanted to leave us with:

Firstly, COVID-19 can affect anyone.

Secondly, how you conduct yourself outside the home - wearing a mask, keeping your distance and taking responsibility if there’s a risk you could have been infected - will stop the virus from spreading.

Finally, the hospitals are seeing patients being admitted with increasingly more complicated heart conditions as a result of people staying away from hospitals. If you feel there’s something wrong, please get checked out. The hospitals have ensured an entirely separate flow of COVID-19 and non COVID patients throughout, that it is safe for the patient and staff.

We were really pleased to be able to host this panel with Mishal Husain, Professor Susanna Price, Lorraine Campbell and Dr Brijesh Patel. We’re incredibly proud of all our NHS staff and how they rose to the challenge of Covid-19, treating some of the most severely affected patients.

Right now, we’re raising funds to buy new equipment for Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals. You can support our brave NHS staff by giving to either our Life In Focus appeal or our Lifeline Lab appeal. As with the COVID-19 crisis, anything you can give will make a huge difference.