Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

Northern Ireland NHS staff at breaking point

Frontline workers speak out about a health service ‘beyond crisis’

Staff working on the frontline of Northern Ireland’s beleaguered health service have been speaking out as morale sinks to an all-time low and the system reaches breaking point.

As Edwin Poots warned failing health bosses that they face the sack over the crisis unfolding in our A&E departments, an investigation by this newspaper exposes the reality of day-to-day life for NHS employees.

People working on the wards, in casualty and in administration departments, as well as patients and visitors, are among those who have come forward to describe a system under mounting pressure and crippled by cutbacks and low morale.

Among the issues raised were:

  • Senior managers who are out of touch with the reality of daily life.
  • Bosses prioritising targets and waiting times over patient care.
  • Reluctance to tackle thugs who abuse and assault health workers.
  • A lack of equipment, and filthy conditions.

One member of staff at the Royal Victoria Hospital said the health service has reached crisis point. "It’s terrible," she said.

“It’s probably past crisis point now — but nobody listens to you .

“Nobody listens to you when you tell them how difficult it is at ward level to meet targets and put people through the system.”

Most who spoke to this newspaper did not want their names published, but used the opportunity to speak anonymously to offer a frank assessment of the situation.

A radiographer claimed standards of patient care have slipped.

“It’s just constantly busy. We’re just too busy to give the patients the full care they need,” he said.

A nurse working in the Belfast Trust claimed it was a “dangerous job” with little action taken against thugs who assault staff.

The health service has been rocked by a succession of shocking cases recently. Earlier this month it emerged a seriously ill man was left to die in the A&E department of the Royal Victoria after being ignored for 20 hours as he lay on a trolley.

Casualty units are also under growing pressure following the closure of Belfast City A&E, with the Royal Victoria, Antrim Area and Ulster Hospitals all struggling to cope.

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