York & North Yorkshire

Scarborough Hospital's A&E 'in day-to-day mayhem'

In recent weeks a number of hospitals across the UK have declared a major incident caused by an influx of patients, few available beds and staffing problems.

Scarborough Hospital was one of those sites, where one emergency medicine consultant said that despite extra staff being called in they face "mayhem" on a daily basis.

BBC Yorkshire's Inside Out spent a shift at Scarborough's A&E unit to see how accident and emergency staff coped.

Image caption Scarborough Hospital was one of a number of hospitals that declared a "major incident" earlier this month

In one day, 114 people came through the doors of the accident and emergency department looking for help.

The medical team did its best to cope with the stream of patients, but in the words of A&E consultant doctor Ed Smith, it was "not an A&E crisis, it's an NHS system crisis."

The College of Emergency Medicine recommends the A&E department should have 10 doctors at consultant level, but it has just three.

One casualty patient, aged 97, had to wait for 15 hours before a bed was found for her.

Mr Smith said the sight of patients on hospital trolleys waiting in corridors for a bed space on a ward was becoming commonplace.

"I'm afraid it's an absolutely daily sight and despite our major incident which did improve the situation for 48 hours it's business as usual and I think you'll probably find this is the experience of most departments around the country at the moment," he said.

The major incident was declared at the resort hospital on 5 January because the wards were full but space was required for 18 more patients who needed to be admitted.

Image caption Accident and Emergency department consultant Ed Smith said patients having to wait for beds on wards was "commonplace"

Lead nurse Simon Etches said the influx of patients and the shortage of available beds was the worst he had seen in nearly three decades in the profession.

He said: "I've been doing this job about 28 years in various A&E departments and I've never seen pressures like this.

"I've never seen staff working so hard, I've never seen A&E departments in this sort of situation."

Mr Etches said he was glad not to be at the beginning of his career.

"I don't know how long I'd be able to keep working under this amount of pressure," he said.

Whatever the difficulties in A&E, the problem of finding a bed on a ward for his patient is one consultant Ed Smith regularly faces.

He said: "There are beds coming up, but it's slow.

"There are beds becoming available, the expectation is there will be a certain number of discharges through the day.

"What we don't know is exactly what time we'll have all the beds available for the patients we've got in the department."

Image caption Lead nurse Simon Etches said the problems experienced in early January were "the worst he had seen in nearly three decades"

Despite the consultant's best efforts patients continue to arrive all day either by ambulance, those sent by the GP or "walk ins".

"We anticipate that will happen over the next few hours, but obviously there's this backlog at the moment where patients are waiting to come in.

"The ambulances have off-loaded onto our trolleys simply because it enables the ambulances to go out and help other people.

"But the patients are on trolleys in the corridor and we haven't got any physical space to put them into at the moment."

Managers at the hospital have even been used as porters to move patients around the hospital.

Mr Smith said: "What we're trying to do is manage a system which is overwhelmed.

"We're really close to the limit of our ability to continue to manage this mayhem that we live in day-to-day."

Deputy chief executive of the York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust Mike Proctor said the major incident situation was "the worst I'd seen, I've been involved as a director of operations for 17 years on and off in this patch."

Image caption Deputy chief executive of the York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust which runs Scarborough Hospital said the major incident situation was the worst he had seen

Asked whether he accepted any blame for the situation, Mr Proctor said: "We have to take some, and it's a question I ask myself.

"With hindsight one could always do some different things.

"Should I have gone to Spain to recruit more nurses last summer? Maybe that would have made the situation better."

But, he stressed the problem was not unique to Scarborough.

"There are many other hospitals in the country in exactly the same position as us," he said.

"That isn't my fault, and I don't think its fair to put blame on any particular party or anything else.

"I think we need longer term solutions to come into force - there is some light at the end of the tunnel."

BBC Inside Out Yorkshire and Lincolnshire is on BBC One in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire on Monday, 19 January at 19:30 GMT and nationwide on the iPlayer for 28 days thereafter.

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