Meet Dr Andy Georgiou, Consultant in Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine and Lead Consultant for Intensive Care at the Royal United Hospitals Bath.
“I have been working in the NHS for 18 years. I trained in hospitals across the Southwest of the UK and in Sydney where I worked for the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service. I have worked as a consultant in Bath since 2012 and I’ve been lead consultant for the intensive care unit (ICU) for 7 years.
“I decided medicine was for me after enjoying human biology at school and completing some work experience in a hospital. I qualified from medical school believing I wanted to do surgery, but thankfully a job in anaesthesia and intensive care as a junior doctor changed my career direction.
“My role became much more strategic during COVID-19. We saw the pandemic spreading Westwards in mid-January and immediately started planning and preparing the estate, the staff and our strategy. Our priority was always ensuring our staff were prepared and protected, and ensuring we had adequate capacity, equipment and consumables for our patients.
“Ultimately, we expanded our ICU capacity over 3.5-fold, with plans to expand it over 5-fold if needed. Extracting and filtering relevant information from the explosion of meetings, emails, and bulletins was a huge challenge. However it was vital to do so as it allowed us to stay ahead of the challenges of this pandemic: ensuring adequate staffing, modelling likely patient numbers, supply issues, reconfiguring the estate, ensuring our oxygen supply would meet the demand, finding alternatives to the national shortages of drugs, consumables and equipment, liaising with the estates, procurement and projects teams as a new 13 bedded negative pressure ICU was built in 42 days, all on top of a full time clinical job.
“We were also learning the whole time too – this was a disease unlike anything we had seen before in intensive care and we had to translate this learning into a clear and consistent clinical strategy to ensure consistency amongst our team when caring for our patients. Working long hours, performing high risk procedures and communicating in PPE, as well as working in the theatre environment (as our expanded ICU) has also been tough for all our staff; we have all learned to deal with this thanks to the humility, determination and good nature of the people we work with on ICU. Finally, we have had to adapt our strategic planning as the hospital both tries to catch up with surgery which requires the support of ICU, and prepares itself for what may come next.
“The ‘Clap for Carers’ made us feel proud, emotional, humbled and slightly awkward. Our jobs give us a unique opportunity to intervene in the lives of those who are at the edges or fringes of their lives, and, in most cases, turn that trajectory around. This is intensive care. It is an area of medicine that most people have no concept of, and (thankfully) no experience of. So to see the spotlight shone on what is in many ways the job we have been doing for many years and see it appreciated in such a public way, was a very moving experience.
“I work in a high-end ICU with incredible colleagues. COVID-19 has reinforced my long-held belief that life is precious and that you never know what is round the corner. Looking after healthy people my own age who have become critically ill with COVID-19 has brought this sharply into focus again for me. Now more than ever, I’d advise people that life is way too short to order the Margherita pizza and the house red!”