Wales

A&E stress levels higher than Iraq warzone, says nurse

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Media captionWales' biggest hospital is facing an A&E staffing crisis according to a senior nurse

A senior nurse says the stress A&E staff face at Wales' biggest hospital is worse than she faced on the front line during the second Iraq war.

She said she had to make decisions "that put patients at risk and put the staff under extreme pressure" at Cardiff's University Hospital of Wales.

The account was pinned to a notice board and sent to the Western Mail.

Health board officials said staff at all levels were working "tirelessly" to meet "extraordinary demand".

The nurse's account of her work was shared at a top level meeting of emergency unit staff and hospital managers.

She said that on one Sunday night shift, a woman miscarried after waiting more than two hours to be assessed, a suicidal patient locked herself in the toilets and another patient had a suspected heart attack in the waiting area.

Image copyright Mick Lobb/Geograph
Image caption The nurse detailed her concerns in a three-page account read out at a staff meeting

Adam Cairns, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board chief executive, said staff had been encouraged to share stories at a weekly forum and this had been a "compelling" one.

"I recognise the pressures our fantastic staff, including the nurse, are dealing with," he told BBC Wales.

"It's relentless, it's been extremely tough.

"One of the reasons we've asked for these sort of stories to be produced is so we can circle our wagons, we can together talk about what we can do to keep responding to the pressures we're encountering."

'Absolutely shocking'

He said there were many more people coming in ambulances with more complex illnesses.

Capacity had been increased but they were unable to staff any more areas in the hospital now.

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Media captionHospital chief executive Adam Cairns said staff were being moved from other areas to deal with the pressures

Therapy staff volunteered to come in last weekend to help out although pressures seem to have settled down in the last couple of days.

"It's a very difficult winter," said Mr Cairns.

"We've had a lot of flu in our community and it's come earlier than it normally would. We're holding up, patients are getting treatment, we're looking after them and we'll continue to do so."

Tina Donnelly, director of the Royal College of Nursing in Wales, said the nurse's comments were "absolutely shocking" and "worrying".

"This is a blow-by-blow account of a sister in an emergency unit demonstrating how complex and challenging working in emergency care is.

"All of these challenges relate to a need of staffing levels to be at their optimum level to deal with these complex care issues."

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Media captionCarwyn Jones says there are 'great pressures' on A&E departments

During First Minister's Questions, Carwyn Jones said the nurse's story demonstrated the "great pressures" facing many hospitals.

He said the strain on A&E was at its greatest for five years and that while some people should not attend A&E there were other factors, including a new flu strain, behind the recent problems.

Deputy health minister Vaughan Gething said it was not a unique situation to Wales.

He said staff had "worked tirelessly, often in difficult situations, to ensure that those people who have needed urgent and emergency care have received high-quality treatment and services and have been treated with care and compassion".

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