NHS worker: I’ve never been so disheartened
AFRONTLINE NHS worker has spoke out over the “demoralising” and “desperate” state of the health service.
The Southport-based worker, who did not want to be named, said that staff were “run ragged” and more disheartened than at any point in her more than 10 years of experience.
The employee, who works in emergency care, decided to speak out amid fears the Government was “running the NHS into the ground” through a lack of funding and a culture which places more importance on targets than patient welfare.
Among the problems were:
Funding cuts leaving staff and resources overstretched.
Targets given priority over patient care.
Staff leaving the NHS in huge numbers.
The local population now being too great for the size of the hospital.
A 111 service which wrongly directs people to emergency care.
Lack of GP appointments causing people to visit A&E unnecessarily.
Rising adult social care needs.
The hospital’s A&E department is undergoing a £1.25m expansion which will create more beds and a better ambulance handover space.
The desperate need for the upgrade was proved in December when ambulances were left queuing for up to seven hours.
In the two weeks between December 18 and 31, more than 200 patients were forced to wait longer than 30 minutes in ambulances before being admitted – 94 of them for more than an hour.
One of the biggest problems for emergency response staff, the health worker explained, was the 111 service wrongly referring people to A&E for minor and non-urgent problems.
The service is run to ease pressure on emergency services, but is staffed by people who are not medically trained and all too frequently patients are wrongly identified as needing emergency care.
Much of this stems from other issues, she argues. The lack of availability of GP appointments means people are more likely to visit hospital, while the population of Southport has rapidly outgrown the capacity of the hospital.
This is made worse by the fact the hospital is the default A&E department for wider areas such as Formby, Ormskirk, Maghull and Tarleton, meaning the number of patients is rapidly outgrowing the capacity of the hospital.
“Now we’re going to work, we know what we’re going to go in to, which is long delays. More people are ringing because they can’t see their GP.
“There’s so many elderly people in Southport now and people who fall can wait up to four hours. There was one person in Lancashire who waited 10 hours on their kitchen floor a few weeks ago.
“If people weren’t waiting to get into the A&E, if the department was bigger, if there was more staff, we could be helping these people.”
Other issues stem from the need to meet government targets, a situation which means patients can be moved to different areas within the same department, simply to meet a four-hour maximum.
The worker added: “I don’t know what the way forward is, but I think if management had to work a day in the department they’d see things very differently.
“The NHS is being abused, not so much by the service users but by the Government.”
Responding to these concerns, the chair of North Mersey A&E Delivery Board, Aidan Kehoe, said: “This winter has been exceptionally challenging for staff across the NHS. There has been significant and sustained pressure and staff have been working incredibly hard in difficult circumstances.
“We know that this has meant that some patients have waited longer in emergency departments and we are very sorry about these waits, which we know are distressing.
“I would like to thank the public for their patience and support.
“We are focused on ensuring the best possible patient experience and that means ensuring that we treat patients as quickly as we can – for patients to be safe, not because of Government targets. Most patients are still treated quickly and we prioritise those who are very sick.
“In the past few months, we have seen more complex and sicker patients, most of whom are over 75 and who need longerterm care from a range of services, not just hospitals. These patients often have multiple conditions.
“Hospitals locally have a number of patients on their wards who are ready to be discharged, but who are waiting for community or social care, which means that we can’t always speedily admit people from the emergency department.
“Organisations across north Mersey are working together on a number of different projects to improve the care we provide for patients and ensure that people don’t need to spend more time in hospital than they need to.
“These include local rapid response teams to try and prevent hospital admissions, regular meetings between hospital and community staff to improve discharge planning and standardising the way we work to reduce the waits patients may experience before being discharged. Southport A&E is being extended to provide more space for patients.
“These projects are having a positive impact.
“All hospitals have active recruitment campaigns and continue to employ new clinical staff and we are trying to do all that we can to improve both the experience of patients and staff. I would like to thank staff for their ongoing hard work and dedication.”
Times have been tough at Southport & Formby District General Hospital. In two weeks in December, 94 patients were forced to wait more than an hour in an ambulance before being admitted