Powerful and moving images from inside an intensive care unit give an insight into the front lines of the coronavirus response.

Hospital staff covered from head to toe in PPE can be seen huddling around a bed as a patient struggles to draw breath inside the Queen's Medical Centre Intensive Care Unit in Nottingham.

The ward is where the most critically ill Covid patients battle the virus and require around the clock care, Nottingham Post exclusively reports.

Journalists from the Mirror's sister paper have been granted exclusive access to the ICU to witness the true extent of Covid-19 and the impact it can have on people of all ages.

Within the ward, Nottingham's NHS heroes work tirelessly day and night on the pandemic frontlines, determined to keep us safe from the deadly disease despite extremely difficult conditions.

Medical Director at Nottingham University Hospitals Trust, Dr Keith Girling, said this winter is different from anything they have ever experienced before.

He described the pressure on NHS staff as "absolutely immense".

Dr Keith Girling said the pressure on staff was "absolutely immense"
Dr Keith Girling said the pressure on staff was "absolutely immense"

"In terms of so far this year, we’ve seen virtually no flu or norovirus," Dr Girling explained.

"What we have seen is an overwhelming amount of coronavirus in its place to numbers of patients now that are nearly double those that we saw in the peak in April.

"That is really dramatically affecting our ability to maintain other services for non-Covid patients.

"Of course, it’s having a massive impact on our staff and the pressure on them across the hospital."

Dr Girling added: "Whilst winter normally affects some specialities more than others, the impact this year is at least an order of magnitude different to what we normally see.

"The critical care demand, the respiratory demand, the demand on our healthcare and the elderly services is absolutely immense."

There were 625 beds at the hospital occupied by Covid patients as of the January 12.

This compares to 507 on January 5, with doctors fearing this number will rise yet further.

Staff in the ICU are dealing with huge numbers of Covid-19 patients
Staff in the ICU are dealing with huge numbers of Covid-19 patients

The NHS estimates around one in four patients within the county's hospital beds now have Covid-19.

Dr Dave Selwyn, Medical Director at Sherwood Forest Hospitals, told of an ICU patient in their 20s who was struggling to breath.

"I was working a clinical shift on intensive care yesterday (January 20)," he said.

"We had a patient in their twenties who we were unable to get oxygen into who had come in that day.

"So we had to transfer them to our regional specialist unit because we couldn’t actually get any oxygen into them and so they had to go onto a heart and lung bypass machine.

"These are young people who are coming in with this disease. This is an incredibly serious disease.

“I thought they were going to die on me. That’s a 20-year-old.

“I don’t think there will be anyone working in the health service who hasn’t been touched by Covid, be that seeing someone die, having a relative die, or the impact of it.

“My worry is, as a society, we’re going to get to that, where everyone will know someone who has died of Covid and that’s my real worry."

Both directors stressed that as hospitals face an increased pressure and NHS staff are working hard to keep the public safe, everyone can all help by following the national guidance to st

ay at home.

With the vaccine on the way and the rollout in full swing, there is light at the end of the tunnel, they stressed as they urged residents to stick to the rules and keep safe.

In the week from January 7 to January 13 there were sadly 63 Covid deaths in Nottinghamshire's hospitals.