Portsmouth A&E nurses at breaking point as QA crisis deepens

A nurse in the accident and emergency department at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham

A nurse in the accident and emergency department at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham

  • Stressed A&E nurses at breaking point
  • Staff turn to using trust-run counsellors to cope with the mounting pressure
  • Hospital says it’s doing all it can to improve the situation
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NURSES are being forced to take group counselling sessions as the crisis at Queen Alexandra Hospital deepens, an A&E insider has claimed.

The nurse, who has asked not to be named, said A&E medics are being stretched to breaking point with many already battling depression.

Staff across the NHS only want to give the best possible care to their patients, but all too often systemic failures are preventing them from doing this

Di Francis, the Royal College of Nursing’s senior regional officer

Some are turning to counselling sessions to cope with the mounting pressures they face from a spiralling influx of patients, a lack of available beds and delays in treatment.

A national nursing union has since condemned the news and described the situation as endemic in hospitals across Hampshire.

Speaking of the situation at QA, the A&E insider told The News: ‘Morale is at an all-time low. We have a lot of highly- experienced staff leaving us.

‘We’re having to have group counselling sessions and a lot of people are taking time off sick with depression.

‘The whole place is just organised chaos. We’re just at the bitter end.’

The nurse said ‘bed-blocking’ was a serious issue, with patients left waiting hours in corridors for treatment.

Likewise, the source added there was a high number of patients admitted to A&E with minor injuries, which caused unnecessary delays for ambulances waiting outside.

‘We can’t go on like this any more,’ added the insider.

Di Francis, the Royal College of Nursing’s senior regional officer, said staff at QA were under great pressure to treat patients.

She added: ‘QA is facing issues which are not unique, but endemic in hospitals across the county, and indeed across the NHS, which are the result of chronic under-resourcing for community services and social care.

‘Staff across the NHS only want to give the best possible care to their patients, but all too often systemic failures are preventing them from doing this. The result is bad for staff and bad for patients.

‘Until this lack of community beds and the gaps in social care are resolved, A&E departments will continue to be overwhelmed during peak times of demand.’

A Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust spokeswoman said staff were ‘working extremely hard’ and ‘going above and beyond’ at a time of ‘unprecedented demand’ on QA’s emergency department (ED).

She added support measures are in place, which include a counselling service.

‘Moving forward we are working alongside our healthcare partners on a whole raft of measures to relieve the huge amount of pressure on the ED,’ she explained.

‘Our first priority is to decongest the department, through measures including changing the way patients are admitted to the Acute Medical Unit, stopping the referral of patients from outpatients to ED and promoting the fact that every outpatients clinic has slots for urgent patients that GPs can use.’

Care, she said, will be more ‘consultant-led’; patients admitted overnight will have a different team of doctors responsible for their care than those admitted in the day.

Also, QA’s Emergency Care Improvement Programme aims to identify short and long-term patients sooner, so social care packages can be put in place quicker, cutting the number of patients spending more than three days in hospital.

The official urged the public only to use the ED in emergencies, adding: ‘We don’t want to stop people who really need to use the ED from attending but it is for emergencies such as breathing difficulties, loss of consciousness, severe chest pain, serious accidents and severe bleeding.’

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