Three innocent people lost their lives in a terror attack in Westminster yesterday, and if it weren’t for the scores of doctors, nurses and paramedics who sprang into immediate action, that number could have been devastatingly higher.
Around 2:40pm, an attacker armed with two large knives mowed down pedestrians with his car on Westminster Bridge, fatally stabbed a policeman and was shot dead by police in the grounds of Parliament. He injured at least 40 civilians.
Staff at St Thomas’ Hospital, which is adjacent to the bridge where pedestrians were hit, fled from their workstations without hesitation.
They played a vital role in the initial moments after the attack, with images taken at the scene showing hospital staff rushing to administer urgent medical assistance to casualties.
The first doctor to attend the scene was not on duty at the time, but rushed to those who were injured when he heard screaming.
Dr Jeeves Wijesuriya, a junior doctor from London, told BuzzFeed News he had been attending an interview when the attack happened. He said: “I heard the screaming so ran to help and the police ran me in.”
Wijesuriya treated a victim who had been stabbed, and another who had been shot. He said he believed one of the patients was the attacker.
— Simon Fleming ? (@OrthopodReg) March 22, 2017
Dr Colleen Anderson, a junior doctor from St Thomas’, was among staff who rushed to the scene.
She said she saw victims strewn across the bridge:
There were some with minor injuries, some catastrophic. Some had injuries they could walk away from, others had life-changing injuries.
Police officers were also hit and injured. They had been walking along the bridge, having just come from a commendation ceremony. One, in his 30s, was treated by Anderson before being transferred to King’s College Hospital in south London.
The junior doctor also said she confirmed one fatality, a woman trapped underneath the wheel of a bus.
But soon more London hospitals were involved, including three of the capital’s four major trauma centres: the Royal London, St Mary’s and King’s College hospitals, each a few miles away.
The first ambulance arrived within six minutes, inside the eight-minute target response time for the most life-threatening 999 calls.
An incident centre at a central London location was immediately set up by National Health Service (NHS) chiefs in order to co-ordinate the health service’s large-scale response, the Guardian reported, with officials working to ensure every NHS organisation involved had enough resources to treat victims and deal with the attack.
Abdi Duale, BAME Officer for London Young Labour, tweeted:
One of the most uplifting scenes amidst the whole tragedy was doctors & nurses rushing out of St.Thomas’ Hospital to help the injured.
Our emergency services have been superb today, they protect us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. They’ve been heroes.
Doctors, nurses and paramedics who rushed to the scene have been described on social media as ‘heroes’, willing to risk their own lives to save others.
Prime Minister Theresa May also praised the exceptional bravery of emergency services and police officers who ran towards the danger ‘even as they encouraged others to move the other way’.
And the response from the NHS proves something that the UK has been fighting for: We need them.
The NHS in the UK is, according to the Red Cross, facing a ‘humanitarian crisis’ as hospitals and ambulance services struggle to keep up with rising demand. Its assessment followed the recent deaths of two patients who died while waiting on trolleys in hospital corridors for treatment. The two tragic deaths underline the ongoing destruction of the NHS.
In December, seven trusts declared the highest level of emergency 15 times, meaning they were unable to give patients comprehensive care.
Dr Taj Hassan, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine said:
The emergency care system is on its knees, despite the huge efforts of staff who are struggling to cope with the intense demands being put upon them.
The NHS, as reports have put it, is on a one-way road to privatisation. Every aspect of public health care is currently under attack, and as proven by yesterday, the UK needs the NHS. Desperately.
Three people tragically died during the Westminster terror attack, but how different would the headlines be today if our NHS’ doctors and nurses were not there yesterday or not allowed to leave private patients?