Categorised in: Health
A doctor has said they felt like a “failure” and “terrified” they would kill someone after the NHS winter crisis left them unable to care for patients properly.
Following two exhausting 13 hour shifts in a row, the frustrated hospital doctor has contacted the Examiner to unveil clinicians’ struggles to treat a huge influx of poorly people.
They have said the unprecedented demand on doctors at the moment is threatening patient safety and said they could earn more working in a supermarket.
The source, a doctor at Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, said they were considering resigning, such was the gravity of the situation.
(Image: Huddersfield Examiner)
In a frank email, they have described the mounting pressure as they attempted to tackle the sheer volume of patients in wards at Calderdale Royal Hospital last weekend.
They said: “As I’m sure you are aware, nationally the NHS is on it’s knees.
“I wanted to highlight the issue from a staff perspective to local people too.
“Morale among staff is currently very low – we are doing our best but are getting very tired and fed up with the system.
“We are aware substandard care is being given – but on the frontline there is very little we can do about it.”
The whistleblower said extra capacity opened up by hospital chiefs had doubled the amount of space for patients but there had been the same amount of doctors in the area they were working – which the Examiner is not revealing to protect the anonymity of the source.
They said: “Whilst I was helping with the ward rounds I was unable to do jobs such as blood tests, cannulas, ordering scans, discharge summaries and seeing new patients who had arrived in the department.
“We were seeing patients who were fit for home, but I had no time to complete the discharge summary, which has to be done by a doctor, so they were unable to be discharged, resulting in a build up of beds.
“The poor bed managers were asking me to complete them but I was so busy seeing the new unwell patients that I had to prioritise the workload.
“Many patients had not been seen by a junior doctor on admission as there was only one available overnight.
“I worked 8am to 9pm both days and had a ten minute break for a sandwich during that time because I insisted on eating.
“I found it difficult to concentrate towards the end and was terrified of making a mistake that would cause harm to a patient, which could result in a medico legal case if they decided to sue or losing my medical registration.
“I had relatives shouting at me constantly because their loved one had not been seen.
“They had questions about their condition, or were in pain etc.
“I just had to apologise, answer what I could and explain that I had to see the critically unwell patients first.
“I genuinely empathise with the relatives and patients who I was unable to help – it must be very frustrating and I feel terribly guilty.”
They added: “This damage limitation medicine is dangerous for both me and the patient.
“Nurses and doctors alike were struggling the whole weekend to keep up with demand, but we all knew it was getting on top of us.
“Many patients needed specialist input before they could be discharged home safely, but often there was not one avaliable to ring at the weekend.
“Another issue was scans we needed doing weren’t avaliable, so the patient had to stay until Monday, adding to the bed pressure again.
“I left my 13 hour shifts feeling emotionally and physically exhausted, but worst of all, like I’d failed many of my patients.
“This is taking a huge toll everyday and I am seriously considering handing in my notice.
“I love being a doctor but not in this working environment.
“I cannot do this long term and will vote with my feet if I have to.
“I can earn more money in a management role in a supermarket with much better hours and without the fear of killing someone or missing something due to time pressures.
“This weekend we just about managed, but we had no crash calls.
“If a patient’s heart were to stop somewhere in the hospital we would have had to leave all 60 patients and run to do CPR.”
Last week, chief operating officer Helen Barker, admitted the winter pressures felt different this year as they were seeing a higher level of seriously ill patients.
Flu has struck the area and the hospital has also been hampered by an outbreak of norovirus – the winter vomiting bug.
Responding to the doctor’s claims, she said: “There is a feeling that the extreme pressures of earlier this month are lessening slightly, which is as a direct result of the work that our staff internally, and those of our health and social care partners, have been doing.
“We are in a position where we are managing more discharges for our patients and their families and have been able to close some of the additional beds.
“We will continue working at a high level of escalation so if there is another surge we are in a strong position to be able to respond.
“I spoke with several doctors on Friday afternoon who reflected it has been a challenging couple of weeks but that they felt supported and had no specific concerns to raise.
“I am sorry this doctor has these concerns and would be happy to meet and discuss with them, in confidence, so they can raise their personal issues with me to address.”
Meanwhile, Paula Sherriff, MP for Dewsbury, Mirfield, Kirkburton and Denby Dale, has reminded the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt of his promise to visit Kirklees’ hospitals.
She has urged him to keep his word and set a date to visit HRI and Dewsbury hospital.
She commented: “With well documented winter pressures compounding the problems already faced by our overstretched doctors and nurses, it is clear that staff are making huge efforts under immense pressure.
“But with plans underway to close Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and replace it with a small urgent care centre, there are widely held concerns that this will leave the whole of Kirklees without full A&E services and further exacerbate already identified risks to patient safety.
“This decision over the future of services in our district currently rests directly with Mr Hunt.
“He needs to hear from those staff, patients and health campaigners who have deep concerns over both the recent downgrades at Dewsbury and forthcoming changes at Huddersfield.
“It is vital that he doesn’t delay in visiting our area. The decisions he makes now him will affect our area for generations to come.”