'When my shift ends you’ll still be waiting': Nurse's warning in A&E lays bare NHS crisis

8 June 2022, 15:38 | Updated: 8 June 2022, 17:51

By Daisy Stephens

A nurse's frank admission to a packed A&E waiting room lays bare the crisis the NHS is facing, as she tells patients they will face waiting as long as 13 hours to be seen.

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Speaking to patients at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, Essex, the nurse explained how many patients they had to see and said there were "no beds" left.

In the clip, which has gone viral, she warns many patients would still be there when she finished her shift at 8am the following morning.

"We've currently got 170 patients in the department," she said.

"There are 90 patients waiting to be seen at the moment... 90 of you are still waiting to be seen.

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"Our current wait time for a doctor is seven and a half hours.

"I will estimate that by the time I go home in the morning at eight o'clock, some of you will still be here waiting for a doctor because the wait will get up to 12 or 13 hours... there are currently no beds in the trust, we're trying to make some space if we can, but if people are admitted there's a chance they might stay in A&E for the night, so we will make you comfortable, we will do our best, we will look after you but please don't expect that you'll be going straight to a ward because that may not happen."

She then said asked all relatives who were not needed to care for the patients to leave because "we're running out of space".

The video was taken by Gary Sitton on the evening of June 6.

He said after the announcement the nurse was verbally abused by angry members of the public.

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Mr Sitton added that his son-in-law, who was in A&E after being involved in a car accident, left after the nurse's speech despite being "in pain".

"My son in law visited A&E after being involved in a RTA," he said.

"He left in pain after hearing the nurse's announcement.

The NHS has been under increasing pressure
The NHS has been under increasing pressure. Picture: Alamy

"Others verbally abused her.

"This is our NHS on its knees after 12 years of underfunding."

Stephanie Lawton, chief operating officer at the PAH trust, said they were experiencing "extremely high demand" for emergency care services and said staff were working hard to prioritise "those in most clinical need".

She urged people to use the non-emergency 111 service to ease pressure on the sector.

MP for Harlow Robert Halfon said he had "huge admiration" for all the staff at PAH and said he had "worked hard" to provide more funds for the hospital, which he said receives the highest number of A&E admissions in England.

"I've worked hard to pump more money into the hospital, including £11.5 million since 2018 alone," he said.

"I’m also pleased to see over 190 more nurses and 53 more doctors since 2019.

"Despite this further investment, the level of admissions puts an immense strain on the services it provides and is only made worse by the fact that the hospital buildings are not fit for purpose."

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He said he had campaigned for a new hospital for Harlow, something he said was confirmed in the Government's recent Levelling Up White Paper.

He went on: "I am meeting with the Health Secretary Sajid Javid this evening to discuss the new hospital and the pressures on our A&E.

"I have also discussed the immediate issues of the delays in A&E with the hospital Chief Executive."

He added he was also trying to improve GP services.

On Wednesday Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer hit out at Boris Johnson over his "wanting and inadequate" NHS standards and told the House of Commons a heartbreaking story from one of his constituents who was unable to get an ambulance to his house.

"I also spoke to Akshay Patel," said Sir Keir.

"Last year, his mother woke up unable to breathe.

"Akshay called 999 six times.

"In his last call, he said: 'I rang an hour ago for an ambulance as she had difficulty breathing. Now she's dead.'"

Patients face long waits upon arrival to A&E
Patients face long waits upon arrival to A&E. Picture: Alamy

Sir Keir accused the Prime Minister of making 24 hours in A&E his "policy".

"In March, [Mr Johnson] proposed changing the NHS contract," he said.

"He wants to double the length of time patients can be made to wait for surgery from one year to two years.

"On top of that he scrapped zero tolerance of 12-hour waits at A&E.

"24 hours at A&E used to be a TV programme – now it's his policy."

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The Government has conceded it needs to make changes to the NHS, with health secretary Sajid Javid saying it was a "Blockbuster healthcare system in the age of Netflix".

But it led to accusations he wanted to turn it into a paid service, something Mr Javid denied.

When asked on LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast whether the health secretary wanted to turn it into "wholly American owned [where] you have to pay a premium to enjoy its programmes", Mr Javid said he was talking about "modernisation".

"I'm talking about technology," he said.

"I'm talking about improvements in terms of modernisation and technology."

Pushed on whether he thought he had used a bad example given the backlash, Mr Javid said: "No, I don't – I think people understand that modernisation… organisations, whether they're private organisations or public organisations, if they don't see trends and changes around them and don't modernise and adapt then they won't survive.

"And I think we all want our NHS to be as strong as possible, we want it to be there, free at the point of use, paid out of general taxation, and we want it to offer us modern services."

Ms Lawton said: "We are currently experiencing extremely high demand for our emergency care services and have seen a significant increase in attendances in our emergency department.

"Our teams are working hard to assess and treat patients as quickly and effectively as possible to reduce delays, prioritising those in most clinical need.

"The public can help us to ease pressures by using the NHS 111 service for healthcare advice in non-urgent cases. As ever, please continue to call 999 or attend the emergency department for urgent and life-threatening emergencies."