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Working in Anaesthesia and Intensive Care during COVID-19

Joe is a Consultant in Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine at the Newcastle Freeman Hospital. He tells us about his role, and how it’s changed during the COVID-19 outbreak

Can you tell us about your role?
“I work as a Consultant in Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine at the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle and have done so since February 2001 (Graduating from Newcastle University in 1988). I spend approximately 50% of my time providing anaesthetic treatments and care for patients undergoing a wide variety of surgeries, most of it being major cancer or arterial surgery.

“The remainder of the time (including my on-call commitments) is spent in a team of 11 Consultants who manage the elective and emergency admissions to one of two adult intensive care units (the other unit being the Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit). I also have national roles with the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine and Royal College of Anaesthetists.”

How has the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic impacted on your day to day work?   
“I was on holiday in Northumberland during the first week of March but in the fortnight since, my working days have changed considerably. I’ve provided anaesthetic care on only two occasions and worked for four days on intensive care, plus two 24-hour on-calls. Beyond that I’ve been training (donning and doffing Personal Protective Equipment) and planning for specific issues that relate to my specialist role. This has included parallel work streams locally and nationally.”

What do you and your colleagues hope to achieve over the next weeks/months? 
“Primum Non Nocere – First Do No Harm. To come through this having provided the best care we could, accepting that it will include potentially fraught and difficult discussions that will focus on end-of-life care. When we’re through the pandemic I hope we can support each other. There will be a great expectation that society should re-set and rebuild and we’ll all need to be physically and emotionally supported to do that.”

What has been your biggest positive learning so far as a result of the changes brought on by the pandemic?  
“I know I have colleagues that I can literally trust with my life.”

Are you alumni working on the front line in this critical time? Tell us your story by emailing us at

published on: 8 April 2020