Casualty spoilers follow.
Casualty was back tonight (January 2) after a four-month break, and it was a heartbreaking return.
The special coronavirus-centric episode showed the pandemic through the eyes of the emergency services and how they cope day-to-day on the wards as the virus spread.
From the very first moment, we saw the staff togged up in restrictive PPE as they looked after patients, with Charlie calling out for Connie, only to find her crying in the staff room.
It became clear that many of the staff caught the virus due to them being on the front line, and Connie was devastated at the thought of talking to the family of one of the ill staff members as it could lead to them withdrawing care – this is later revealed to be receptionist Noel Garcia.
The episode then flashed back to the beginning of the pandemic which saw the staff discuss getting additional PPE, take delivery of a large stock of body bags and deal with the very first suspected cases.
One particular moment showed how Jade found it difficult to communicate with her colleagues as the PPE covered their mouths so she couldn't lip read, as they made the decision not to resuscitate a dying patient.
In the present day, Charlie said he struggled with that as he initially sent that lady back to her care home without giving her a COVID test, like a "ticking timebomb".
Heartbreaking scenes of death after death continued as the virus began to take hold, with the staff looking devastated and completely exhausted in echoes of what has been on the news.
Charlie told Connie that he couldn't give up because on one nightshift a local pizza house donated food and then it flashed back to some of the staff taking on a Tik-Tok dance. Later another positive moment happened when a mother and newborn were discharged after both catching the virus.
After another death, Connie revealed that her father had died alone in a hospital corridor and she wanted to ensure that didn't happen in the ED, but obviously it was unattainable.
She said: "I'm losing patients in the middle of a packed ED because we don't have enough equipment and high-dependency cubicles, and you know why we're struggling, why it's so tough? It's because the NHS was on its knees already. And then we get hit with a pandemic and they expect us to perform miracles."
The episode showed staff making difficult phone calls, holding patients' hands and helping with Facetime calls before the were sedated.
When Noel was admitted into the ward with oxygen, he said to Connie as he was being assessed: "Mrs B – is there a ventilator with my name on it?"
She told him if it was serious enough, then yes.
"There's no point being here if you're not going to experience the whole works, right. I read the reviews online that the ICU gets four and a half stars," he said, "Mrs B, if I'm taking up a bed that someone else needs..."
Then back in the present day, after telling Noel's family that he wasn't going to get better, she went down and held his hand, telling him: "I'm so sorry. Sleep well, my friend."
Devastatingly, she then had to go and tell the rest of the team that Noel had passed away, but instead of diverting critical care patients to another hospital as had been suggested, the team noted that "Noel would have finished his shift".
The closing scene showed the team heading out to meet ambulances bringing patients in after a serious road traffic collision, with a note of having to just carry on.
Viewers took to Twitter to thank the show for highlighting the amazing work the NHS do and to praise the show:
Bravo #Casualty! 👏👏 That was so devastating and difficult to watch! The cast, and crew worked so incredibly hard to tell the story of frontline workers and should be so proud of themselves!! ❤️❤️ RIP Noel! pic.twitter.com/yYTjJQ1urS
— Sophie Chapman 🧠🌼 (@Sophie_C_Chap) January 2, 2021
— Jack Nolan Fans (@JackNolanFans) January 2, 2021
— Iain Anderson (@iain_w_anderson) January 2, 2021
It’s one thing watching an episode like this and FEELING IT but it’s another altogether reminding yourself this has been the reality in hospitals since march, and it’s getting worse again. So much respect for ALL healthcare workers. THANK YOU. Ps, FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES. #Casualty
— kate (@rainbowoodfield) January 2, 2021
#casualty i urge everyone to watch the latest episode, no “drama” involved its pure, raw, emotive tv. its the reality of what our NHS workers are going through daily. we are so lucky to have our frontline workers💙. stay at home, wash your hands, wear your masks and keep 2m apart
— 🐝 (@bethh28x) January 2, 2021
This is so incredibly powerful. Difficult to watch but I'm in awe of the work and the detail that's gone into making this episode reflect the horrendous real life situation that our wonderful NHS are in, while trying to deal with the pandemic. #Casualty
— Chris Gascoyne & Alison King Fans (@LoveChrisandAli) January 2, 2021
I genuinely have no words for how fucking incredible this episode is, how incredible the crew and cast are and how incredible every single key and NHS worker are@TheeTonyTee3 you will be missed
Wow. @BBCCasualty @ChuckyVenn @meamandamealing @neetmohan #casualty #bbccasualty
— p (@missconniebeau) January 2, 2021
Casualty airs on Saturday evenings on BBC One.
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