The Express & Star was given an unrestricted behind-the-scenes look at exactly what is happening on a daily basis. Reporters Tim Spiers, Adam Thompson and Mark Andrews and photographers Tim Thursfield, Steve Leath, Patrick Mulvaney and Alan Evans bring you the result of 24 hours in A&E at New Cross Hospital:
New Cross Hospital’s overflowing accident and emergency department is being stretched to its very limit – and the Express & Star was granted exclusive 24-hour access to see first-hand the incredible pressures staff are under.
Deaths, life-saving, arguments, tears, frustration, drunken louts and a lot of waiting around – we saw it all during our privileged inside look as A&E was laid bare.
Our reporters and photographers shadowed staff and patients from 6am on Friday to 6am on Saturday and witnessed the good, the bad and the ugly of an increasingly under-pressure emergency department.
Staff worked 12-hour shifts with barely a break to speak of, while some patients lay on the ward for more than 10 hours as they waited patiently to be moved to the correct medical unit.
Nurses frantically tried to manage the heaving workload, doctors moved swiftly from patient to patient, porters ferried people and objects around the ward to keep things ticking along and security guards hovered looking for signs of trouble as they attempted to keep the peace.
Systemic problems were revealed as to how patients even arrived at A&E in the first place, with many ailments clearly too minor to be treated in such a major and busy environment.
Around 40,000 extra patients per year than it was designed to cope with currently visit A&E.
The hospital has come in for heavy criticism as it struggles to cope with relentless demand – and staff say the situation is the worst it’s been in decades.
Bosses in charge have even labelled their own A&E department as “unfit for purpose”.
Suffering patients being treated in cramped corridors has become the norm, while on extreme occasions some are left to wait in ambulances outside. But the situation is set to get even worse, with the fallout from the Stafford Hospital scandal yet to be fully realised. To remedy the jam-packed capacity problems the trust which runs New Cross authorised £1million worth of improvements last year. It then announced that a brand new £25m A&E – four times the size of the existing department – would open in 2015.
But problems have persisted and the trust could be hit hard in the pocket with a £750,000 fine for not meeting ambulance targets next month.
This week it was announced that yet another seven-figure facelift will be given to A&E as £1.5m is spent on adding 12 extra beds to the department. It will more than double the number of ‘major cubicles’ as there are only nine at the moment – but the chief executive of the trust said the extension, although necessary, still wouldn’t make a silk purse out of what is a “sow’s ear”.
David Loughton has also admitted that the current overflow of patients, which at its height sees 350 attendances at A&E per day, would continue for the next two years until the new department is built. Around 80 per cent of patients at New Cross’ A&E come and go within just hours having been treated for their relatively minor injuries.
But emergency care is not readily available – or at least not up to scratch – at other health centres in the region.
Serious problems exist such as the lack of an emergency service that GPs provide -– or the fact that people have to wait days to be treated with their GPS when they can turn up at New Cross and wait for a few hours.
Whatever the future holds it’s clear that the incredible work of staff largely goes unappreciated.
Four pages of coverage from 24 hours in New Cross Hospital A&E in today's Express & Star