Prime Minister says he understands the pressures facing the NHS as he thanks nurses who helped save his life
Boris Johnson said on Sunday there were “48 hours when things could have gone either way”, as he paid tribute to NHS staff who “saved my life, no question”.
In his first comments since recovering from coronavirus, the Prime Minister revealed how close he came to death and said nurses spent two days at his bedside.
He was discharged from hospital on Sunday and travelled to Chequers with Carrie Symonds, his fiancée, whom he has not seen for a fortnight.
Before travelling to his grace and favour residence, where he will recuperate after a week in hospital, Mr Johnson released a video address revealing the seriousness of his condition and praising the medical staff who cared for him.
He said: “I have today left hospital after a week in which the NHS has saved my life, no question. It’s hard to find the words to express my debt.”
Soon after the Prime Minister was discharged, around 1pm, Ms Symonds said: “There were times last week that were very dark indeed,” adding: “Today I’m feeling incredibly lucky.”
Mr Johnson said he saw at first hand the “pressure that the NHS is under” but added that it would win the fight against coronavirus because “it is the best of this country. It is unconquerable. It is powered by love.”
In his message of thanks, the Prime Minister singled out “Jenny from New Zealand and Luis from Portugal” – later identified as Jenny McGee, from Invercargill on the South Island, and Luis Pitarma, from Aveiro on the west coast of Portugal.
He said: “I hope they won’t mind if I mention in particular two nurses who stood by my bedside for 48 hours when things could have gone either way.
“The reason in the end my body did start to get enough oxygen was because for every second of the night they were watching and they were thinking and they were caring and making the interventions I needed.”
Mr Johnson also praised the sacrifice shown by the public in its adherence to the “hardship” of the lockdown, which he announced three weeks ago.
He said: “I want you to know that this Easter Sunday I do believe that your efforts are worth it, and are daily proving their worth.”
No 10 said the Prime Minister would not be working and would miss Monday’s planned Cabinet meeting, where ministers are expected to discuss extending the lockdown.
Speaking on Sunday, aides declined to say whether Mr Johnson would take part in the Government review of the lockdown, due to take place on Thursday.
Splits have begun to emerge in the Cabinet over how involved the Prime Minister should be. One Cabinet source told The Telegraph: “The Prime Minister has to take that decision. Any lockdown will have huge implications and the PM will be responsible for it. So he’s got to be the one taking that decision – he has got to live with the consequences.”
But other ministers thought Dominic Raab was capable of continuing to lead while the Prime Minister recovers.
On Sunday Mr Johnson praised the “millions going through the hardship of self-isolation faithfully, patiently, with thought and care for others as well as for themselves.” He said the lockdown had meant the public formed a “human shield around this country’s greatest national asset – our National Health Service”.
He also stressed that the “struggle is by no means over”, but said: “We are now making progress in this incredible national battle against coronavirus. A fight we never picked against an enemy we still don’t entirely understand.” He also thanked the “utterly brilliant doctors” at St Thomas’ Hospital, where he was admitted on April 5.
In his video tribute he said: “I want to thank the many nurses, men and women, whose care has been so astonishing”, before name-checking “Po Ling and Shannon and Emily and Angel and Connie and Becky and Rachael and Nicky and Ann” and referencing Ms McGee and Mr Pitarma.
Mr Pitarma, a senior nurse and specialist in extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, has worked on the intensive care unit at St Thomas’ for four years, while Ms McGee registered to work in the UK in 2010. Neither nurse nor anyone from the medical team were available for comment but Ceu Oliveira, Mr Pitarma’s aunt, told The Telegraph that although the family was proud, he would not want any attention.
Dr Ian Abbs, head of Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: “I am incredibly proud of the staff who have cared for the Prime Minister and pleased he is able to continue his recovery at home. I want to pay tribute to the teams whose dedication, skill and compassion made this possible. While it is right we celebrate this news, our thoughts turn to those who still need our help at this time.
“I’d ask that people stay home to help us save lives and protect the NHS.”