PEOPLE who spread lies about the severity of the pandemic are"divorced from reality" and causing extra deaths, Swindon's hospital boss warned.

Great Western Hospital trust chief executive Kevin McNamara slammed Covid deniers who wrongly claim that the hospital is no busier than in a typical winter.

He revealed the immense strain the crisis is putting on doctors and nurses who are caring for more than 150 patients who have or are suspected to have the virus.

And he feared that people are being put at risk of catching the deadly and extremely infectious disease by believing lies about the lockdown or Covid being 'just the flu'.

Mr McNamara said: "This isn’t like a typical winter, it isn’t like normal flu season, those things are myths and, to be frank, some of the stuff we see and hear about what the NHS is dealing with is quite disheartening.

“I went into intensive care and spoke to staff. To see the pressure and the human toll staff and patients are under from this deadly virus… I think anybody that sees this as not being real, or something that’s just a typical thing that we face, is really divorced from reality.

“It’s important to confront the deniers and people that are putting out these myths because these myths cost lives, these myths sometimes encourage people to think they can go out and socialise and not be at risk of a deadly virus.

“It feels a bit strange to me how, in some parts of the country, we’ve gone from clapping for healthcare workers and key workers in the spring to denying that Covid is a real thing in the winter.

"It’s something we should all confront because it’s real, it’s deadly, people are dying every day from it ."

The warning came during an online Q&A organised by the borough council after the hospital declared a critical incident due to the high numbers of coronavirus patients needing treatment.

Management cancelled operations so that theatres and other areas could be used to store extra beds and surgical staff could be redeployed to help treat patients in intensive care and non-Covid patients in other parts of the hospital.

The question that sparked Mr McNamara's emphatic retort to people underplaying the seriousness of the health crisis was 'What would you say to people who say GWH isn’t any more worse off than it is every winter?'

Mr McNamara added: “I’d say they clearly don’t know what the NHS does in a typical winter and they don’t know what it’s doing now in a global pandemic.

"Year-on-year comparisons don’t work any more, partly because this time last year we had more beds in hospital because we didn’t have social distancing. Admittedly, we were caring for patients at very busy times in corridors and we can’t do that because of the risk of the spread of the virus.

“We are seeing far more people, compared to this time last year, in intensive care and we have had to expand the ICU. We have never had to cancel as many operations and take over theatres for other care.

“Over Tuesday night and into Wednesday, we had to put beds in… areas where we would not ordinarily put beds because we needed that capacity – that isn’t a typical winter."

The hospital boss urged people to follow lockdown rules, talked about the toll it's taking on healthcare staff, and how the situation could improve.

He added: “We have seen the impact of things like the Christmas socialising, that’s what we’re treating in the hospital now. Our staff are experiencing a significant burden caring for those patients.

“That’s not just a physical burden in the here and now with the long hours, this will be a long-term mental health burden as well given the things they have had to see and do to care for patients during this pandemic.

“If we keep seeing this high level of demand, we are put in a very precarious position and will see a repeat of Tuesday night.

"That’s not what anyone wants… so it’s important we put all of our efforts into discharging people from hospital as quickly as we can and have people who don’t need to go to hospital treated elsewhere.

“If we are not careful and continue to see the number of patients with Covid, all we have to do is look down the road to London to see how bad it can get.

"Stay home and reduce the risk not just of Covid but unnecessary journeys that expose us to everyday risks."