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Nurse says ‘soul-destroying’ conditions prompted ED staff exodus

Short-staffing and workload pressures have become unbearable for some, nurse claims, and trust confirms ten members of nursing staff have left Southend hospital in past three months

Short-staffing and workload pressures have become unbearable for some, nurse claims, and trust confirms ten members of nursing staff have left Southend hospital in past three months

An emergency department (ED) nurse has described the ‘soul-destroying’ conditions that have prompted many of their colleagues to leave.

Ten nursing staff have resigned from Southend University Hospital’s ED in the past three months, Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust (MSEFT) confirmed.

Staffing shortages and unmanageable workloads

One nurse, who spoke to Nursing Standard, said staffing shortages, unmanageable workloads and the inability to provide safe and dignified care were among reasons for the exodus.

The experienced ED nurse, who is also thinking of leaving,

Short-staffing and workload pressures have become unbearable for some, nurse claims, and trust confirms ten members of nursing staff have left Southend hospital in past three months

Southend University Hospital A&E department sign
Picture: Penelope Barritt/Alamy Live News

An emergency department (ED) nurse has described the ‘soul-destroying’ conditions that have prompted many of their colleagues to leave.

Ten nursing staff have resigned from Southend University Hospital’s ED in the past three months, Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust (MSEFT) confirmed.

Staffing shortages and unmanageable workloads

One nurse, who spoke to Nursing Standard, said staffing shortages, unmanageable workloads and the inability to provide safe and dignified care were among reasons for the exodus.

The experienced ED nurse, who is also thinking of leaving, said they believed patients were coming to harm due to delays in getting treatment and being admitted to wards.

‘It is awful, soul-destroying. I constantly feel guilty,’ they said. ‘You spend the majority of your time apologising to people for things you haven’t been able to do.’

Concerns about staff leaving and the knock-on effect on patient care came to the fore last week when a group called Save Southend NHS published a statement suggesting the ED was ‘falling apart’ and was a ‘toxic’ environment in which to work.

Pressure ‘had become unbearable for some’

The nurse, who asked not to be named, told Nursing Standard there were sometimes up to 15 ambulances queuing outside the department for 8-12 hours while staff desperately tried to find space, respond to emergencies and care for patients waiting for beds on wards.

The pressure had become unbearable for some, they added. ‘In the past couple of months, we’ve had around 15 resignations among registered nurses and healthcare support workers and we have quite a large number of staff on long-term sick leave due to stress. The more people resign, the more short-staffed we are, so the pressure goes up.’

The nurse claimed some staff with children had ‘more or less been forced to resign’ after flexible working arrangements were withdrawn.

Staff had given up trying to raise concerns because they knew nothing would happen, the nurse said.

Trust says it is recruiting, but there are ‘still some challenges’

RCN senior officer for Essex Tony Duncan said staffing shortages were affecting hospitals across the region and piling extra pressure on nursing staff.

An inspection by the Care Quality Commission in 2021 found staff in emergency care at the trust did not feel respected, supported or valued, and rated leadership as ‘requires improvement’.

The 2021 NHS Staff Survey found only 15.5% of registered nurses and midwives at the trust believed there were enough staff for them to do their job properly – down from 31% the previous year.

The trust said it is ‘in the midst of a recruitment drive’ and has secured 12 nurses to start work in the ED.

A spokesperson said: Staffing levels in A&E are reviewed regularly throughout the day, to ensure that patients are receiving the best possible care.

‘There have been many improvements made throughout the department since the CQC visit last year. While there are still some challenges, such as staff recruitment, these are being addressed with clear plans in place.’

The hospital said all flexible working requests are being reviewed to ensure there is balance between personal need and maintaining a safe service.


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