Matt Hancock pandemic diaries: Ex-Health Secretary recounts 2021 Basildon Hospital trip

‘I don’t think we’ll see him again’: Matt Hancock reveals doctor’s harrowing words as he put Covid patient on a ventilator during night shift at the height of the pandemic

Matt Hancock revealed the harrowing moment a Covid patient was put on a ventilator as a doctor said: ‘I don’t think we’ll see him again.’

The former health secretary had travelled to Basildon Hospital in January 2021, then one of the most under-pressure hospitals, to accompany doctors on the night shift.

The ‘unbelievably awful moment’ was one of countless horrors experienced by NHS frontline staff in the pandemic, which has claimed 212,000 lives in the UK.

At the time there were still 37,000 people in hospitals being treated for Covid, and staff faced the bleak regularity of caring for patients in the final days of their life.

Matt Hancock with staff at Basildon hospital in January 2021

Matt Hancock with staff at Basildon hospital in January 2021

Matt Hancock with staff at Basildon hospital in January 2021

Matt Hancock with staff at Basildon hospital in January 2021

Mr Hancock writes: ‘In intensive care, I watched a man consent to being intubated because his blood oxygen levels weren’t sustainable.

‘He spoke to the doctor who said, “We want to put a tube in, because we don’t think you’ll make it unless we do that.”

‘His chances of waking up were 50:50. He knew that. It was an unbelievably awful moment.

‘He reluctantly agreed, and within a minute he was flat out on the ventilator.

‘The doctor next to me said, “I don’t think we’ll see him again”.’

Another registrar called the patient’s wife to say had been intubated, and told the then minister: ‘We’re doing this, we all know it’s our duty, we’re coping with a second wave – but we can’t have a third.’

‘Then he burst into tears,’ Mr Hancock says, adding that the night shift at the Essex hospital, completed in full PPE, left him ‘completely drained’.

The episode also reveals the background to debates happening at the top levels of Government.

In these, Mr Hancock and Chief Medical Officer professor Chris Whitty used stories from the front line to push for tougher measures to stop the virus.

They were pitched against Covid hawks such as Rishi Sunak, then the chancellor, who used the public finances ‘horror show’ to argue against tighter restrictions.

Matt Hancock 'donned full PPE and got stuck in'

Matt Hancock ‘donned full PPE and got stuck in’

The then-Health Secretary said he 'saw first-hand the immense pressure that our NHS is under'

The then-Health Secretary said he ‘saw first-hand the immense pressure that our NHS is under’

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