‘It feels terminal’: NHS staff in despair over working at breaking point | NHS

As the NHS crisis has deepened in recent weeks, frontline staff have posted vivid, troubling accounts on social media of what has been happening in their workplaces. Many have described the NHS, and often themselves too, as “broken”. They have related the difficulty of providing proper care, the impact of acute understaffing and their fears for the NHS’s future.

This is a selection of some of what doctors, nurses and other NHS staff have been saying.

‘I’ve come close to tears’

Tonight I’ve come close to tears whilst apologising to patients for the standards of care we are able to provide. In my 22 years of being an A&E doctor I’ve never seen things so bad. It’s the same everywhere.

I just hope patients know fault lies with politicians not NHS staff.
Dr Rob Galloway, A&E consultant, Brighton

‘Never felt so let down’

Never seen A&E like this. Never seen staff so mentally and physically exhausted. Never felt so worried for our patients. Never felt so let down by those who have the power to fix this. When will someone say enough is enough?
Nicola Smart, A&E charge nurse, Edinburgh

‘State of play feels terminal’

The moral injury that healthcare staff are suffering this winter is worse than the moral injury from the height of the pandemic.

The pandemic was seen as unavoidable – out of the full control of the government. This winter is mainly a consequence of political choices.

Can’t shake the feeling that the current state of play feels terminal.
Jason, GP

‘This is not OK’

I feel broken! Not sure how much longer I can sustain this or watch my friends/colleagues/patients suffer. Never ever thought I’d say that. This is not OK!
Emma Philp, A&E nurse, Edinburgh

‘Teams are working incredibly hard’

We saw just under 400 patients in Milton Keynes hospital emergency department [ED] yesterday – the highest number ever. We’ve seen an unprecedented number of patients seeking emergency care every day over the last eight days. The ED team and teams across the whole hospital are working incredibly hard.

I know patients have been waiting longer, and some much longer than usual in ED. I am really sorry for those longer waiting times. I know you might be scared or anxious. We will see you as quickly as we can. Please don’t shout at or abuse our staff; they are doing their best.
Prof Joe Harrison, chief executive of Milton Keynes university hospital NHS trust

‘People are dying’

I just can’t stay in medicine if this is what it’s going to be like from now on. The system is broken.

It is impossible to deliver good care to everyone – that ship sailed long ago. It’s no longer “people will die”. People ARE dying.

When you have 42 patients waiting for beds, in an ED with 14 majors beds, eight minors beds and six resus beds, how the hell does anyone make that work? It is impossible.
Dr Andrew Punton, internal medicine doctor, west of Scotland

‘This is a humanitarian crisis’

Yesterday I attended a lady who had been waiting 18 hours for an ambulance.

She was saturated in her own urine and faeces. Confused, scared and septic. She was 63 and normally well. This could be you.

Time to declare a critical incident; this is a humanitarian crisis.

Truly awful times at the moment.
Will, paramedic, England

‘We are at a tipping point’

I’m a consultant physician working as a doctor in the NHS in Yorkshire and Wales for 32 years now. I have experienced the NHS at its best (2008) and its worst (2022).

When I do my “emergency take” ward rounds I am seeing patients in chairs, in corridors, in the back of ambulances. There is little privacy and dignity is impaired. We all do the best we can but it is a poor environment. This has become much worse over the past five years.

Lots of folk are leaving the NHS to do agency or locum work. Once this happens we are at a tipping point.

Those of us left are working in jobs with constant colleague absences. So we must work harder, often covering extra shifts at short notice. Because we have to. There is moral pressure to cover on-call gaps because the service cannot be allowed to collapse.

We are all so tired.
Dr Peter Neville, consultant gastroenterologist


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