A week after Antrim A&E was described as “unsafe”, an NHS whistleblower says nurses are facing “chaos” on the front line.
The stressed-out staff nurse at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital said she was “forced” to write to Sunday Life to highlight the horrific working conditions she and her colleagues face on a daily basis.
In an emotional and heartfelt letter, the nurse revealed that people visiting friends and family are using their phones to film her every move as she tries to care for patients.
“No-one in any other professions could work under these conditions,” she said.
Earlier this month it was revealed that A&E consultants described the department in Antrim as “ineffective and unsafe”.
Their damning comments came following the tragic death of a child who was brought to Antrim A&E during the Easter holidays, then transferred to the Royal where they died.
It took 20 minutes for the child to be triaged or prioritised at Antrim because the A&E was short staffed.
After 20 years working in the NHS, our whistleblower who signed her letter “staff nurse at the end of her tether” claimed there is a simple solution to improving care — more money.
“There is no need to pay some big shot a big wage to carry out investigations,” she said. “Any one of my hard-working colleagues can tell you for nothing what we need — more nurses, more senior doctors and last but not least more dedicated cleaning staff, employed directly by the hospital.
“I am sick of hearing about budgets, cuts and audits. If you want a clean, caring and safe environment to come to when you or your loved ones are ill or old, you are going to have to pay for it.”
The nurse also expressed her frustration at people who waste money by “manipulating the system”.
“People with drugs and drink dependency, who use our hospitals as hotels when they run out of money to sustain their habit of choice,” she said.
“We on the front line know these people as ‘frequent flyers’.”
The nurse said such patients know that if they get aggressive or cause a scene they will be shipped up to a ward fast.
She told of how people on drink or drugs even
lie about having infectious illnesses like vomiting and diarrhoea so they can get a side room.
“So if your elderly mum or dad is lying in A&E with a fractured hip, tough,” she said.
“The drunk guy gets priority.”
At night time, she said it gets even worse when there are just two nurses and an assistant caring for 20 patients.
The whistleblower said she would love time to sit and talk with her elderly patients but is forced to “rush, rush, rush” to get all her work done.
Disturbingly, she claimed some patients who are unable to care for their own hygiene are left unwashed for hours because staff just don’t have the time.
“It’s chaos,” she said.
“I and my colleagues just want to be able to care for our patients as well as they deserve.
“We want to be able to sit with a dying man or woman and hold their hands while they pass away peacefully, to be able to comfort someone who needs a shoulder to cry on.
“We are all getting older, we need to sort this out.
“This is our future, every one of us.”
The nurse said many of her friends at RVH can’t wait to leave.
“We are losing good men and women because this caring profession doesn’t care about its own workforce.
“We work long hard days and feel unappreciated by everyone. It’s like working with a target on your back,” she said. “Everyone gets to tell us what they think of us, abuse us verbally and physically but we can’t answer back.
“When we complain we’ve been told to suck it up, it’s your job.”
A spokesperson for the Belfast Trust advised the nurse who wrote to Sunday Life to contact her line manager immediately with her concerns, and added that the trust promotes “a climate of honesty and openness”.
He said: “The Belfast Health and Social Care Trust is committed to achieving the highest possible standards of service and the highest ethical standards in all its practices.
“To this end we introduced a whistle blowing policy for the Trust which strives to encourage a climate of honesty and openness in which it is safe and acceptable for any member of staff to raise concerns internally and at the earliest possible time.”