The doctors who treated the Skripals following the Salisbury Novichok attack did not believe the former Russian spy and his daughter would survive, they have revealed.
Medics at Salisbury District Hospital said that the prognosis for Sergei and Yulia Skripal was not good when they first arrived in the Accident and Emergency department on March 4 after collapsing on a park bench in the city.
Dr Stephen Jukes, Intensive Care consultant, told BBC Newsnight: "When we first were aware this was a nerve agent we were expecting them not to survive. We would try all our therapies. We would ensure the best clinical care. But all the evidence was there that they would not survive."
He added that the medical team initially thought the pair had succumbed to an opioid overdose, but the diagnosis quickly changed to nerve agent poisoning.
They were heavily sedated and given large doses of drugs designed to help their bodies produce a key protective enzyme.
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Staff were concerned that the illness could spread, particularly after PC Nick Bailey, a police officer who became unwell after visiting Mr Skripal's home, was also brought in for treatment.
Lorna Wilkinson, the Director of Nursing at the hospital, said: " “I suppose the key marker for me was when the PC [Nick Bailey] was admitted with symptoms - there was a real concern as to how big could this get.”
She said she remembered thinking: “‘have we just gone from having two index patients [to] having something that actually could become all-consuming and involve many casualties?’ because we really didn't know at that point.”
Medical staff also said they had no idea of the future prognosis for any of those affected by the nerve agent.
Dr Christine Blanshard, medical director at the hospital, told the programme, “the honest answer is we don't know”.
The medical team at the hospital had also been helped by their proximity to Porton Down laboratory, they revealed, as it offered to carry out testing and give advice on the best therapies.
Dr Duncan Murray, head of the intensive care department, said “international experts” had helped the three to recover, alongside the "excellent teamwork by the doctors, fantastic care and dedication by our nurses".
All three have now been discharged, with Mr Skripal leaving hospital the most recently, on May 18, after 10 weeks of treatment.
In her first appearance since leaving hospital, Ms Skripal spoke to the news agency Reuters at a secret London location last week.
She said she felt she and her father were "lucky to both have survived this attempted assassination".
She added: "I don’t want to describe the details, but the physical treatment was invasive, painful and depressing.”
The British government has accused Russia of being behind the attack, expelling 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation.
It has denied any involvement and expelled British diplomats from Moscow, as well as questioning the legitimacy of Ms Skripal's statement.
In a statement, it said: "The UK is obliged to give us the opportunity to speak to Yulia directly in order to make sure that she is not held against her own will and is not speaking under pressure."