WE'VE been here before - and we can do it again. That's the message from a senior nurse at York Hospital as he and his colleagues brace themselves to tackle a second surge in coronavirus cases.

In an exclusive interview with The Press today Michael Mawhinney, the matron (or senior nurse) in charge of cancer and support services, said staff had learned a lot from tackling the first wave of the virus earlier this year.

Yes, there was an element of the unknown about just how bad the second wave of the virus would get, Mr Mawhinney admitted. “But we have the right skills and equipment. The whole workforce is ready to go. So I feel a bit apprehensive, but not too anxious. We’ve been here before, and we can do it again."

Over the next few weeks, The Press will be interviewing different frontline hospital staff as they deal with the virus, and at the same time try to keep as many other hospital services and treatments going as possible.

In the first of those interviews today, Mr Mawhinney admitted that at the height of the first wave of the virus, hospital staff were under strain.

“There were times when you got really tired, and you were thinking to yourself ‘how is this going to end?’” he said.

But it never got to the point where staff felt overwhelmed, he said. "We did not quite get that far."

A strong sense of team spirit helped - as did the support of members of the public, expressed through the Thursday evening 'claps'. “That really meant the world, and kept you going,” Mr Mawhinney said.

York Hospital medical director James Taylor said today that both York and Scarborough hospitals were 'well placed to respond to the second wave of Covid'.

"Our staff did an incredible job in exceptional circumstances to prepare our hospitals and to treat those who were critically ill with the virus during the first wave," he said.

"By adapting a similar approach, but building on the lessons we have learned, we are already planning how we will flex our hospital capacity and community services as needed to respond to an increase in hospital admissions.

“We understand patients may feel anxious about coming into hospital but it is important to attend a face to face appointment if invited to do so. We are doing everything we can to keep everyone safe and any patients suspected or confirmed as having coronavirus are cared for on dedicated wards with strict infection control guidelines in place.”

Mr Mawhinney said that if there was one thing members of the public could do to help reduce the burden on NHS staff, it was to observe social distancing guidelines. “It’s so important," he said. “If we don’t keep social distancing, it will infect vulnerable people, and we’ll get a lot more patients.”