Documentary reveals strain on A&E staff during Covid-19

A&E After Dark: Documentary reveals pressure on NHS staff already stretched by the pandemic as they deal with abusive patients hitting them and spitting and drunk people vomiting in bags on the floor

  • A&E after Dark’s new season follows Hull University Hospital during pandemic 
  • During the night shift, staff have to deal with emergencies on top of Covid-19 
  • Documentary show strain on the staff who have to deal with drunken patients 

While hospitals have been under strain since last March because of Covid-19, staff are still tasked with looking after a stream of sick and injured patients, as well as a constant stream of drunk and unruly people entering the A&E. 

A&E After Dark’s new season, airing tonight at 9pm on Channel 5, follows the night team at the Hull University Teaching Hospital as they try to provide care to emergency patients in the time of Covid-19. 

Filmed during the autumn before the current lockdown, staf wearing PPE speak candidly of the challenges of providing the best care possible to all patients who range from disruptive to those who didn’t want to come to hospital at all. 

Some patients admit they postponed their trip to the hospital because of Covid-19, not wanting to put more pressure on the hardworking staff, including one coughing up blood after an accident at home. 

The documentary reveals that on top of the pressure of Covid-19, staff have to deal with drunken, unruly and sometimes violent patients, but say that their priority is to make sure they are healthy. 

Nurse practitioner Helen explains that the hospital has to be strict on banning visitors, to ensure that social distancing can remain in place 

Nurse practitioner Helen sympathises that it must be ‘very difficult for patients to come in to the department at the moment,’ due to the pandemic. 

She also explains that the hospital has to be unwavering with its rules on outside visitors. 

‘We have to abide by the rules. No relatives can come in because if you let one relative in, then all the relatives want to come in. And then social distancing can’t be maintained,’ she says. 

‘So it’s quite depressing for the patients, especially when they get a dramatic injury,’ she adds. 

Dr Chris Chadwick helps examines a 31-year-old woman who’s crashed her car in a tree on her way home and can’t feel her legs 

Rayleigh, pictured, said she can’t feel anything after her traumatic car accident. Thankfully she has made a full recovery since 

As the hospital warns of a three-and-a-half-hour long wait time before seeing a doctor, people with broken fingers, cuts and bruises pile up in the waiting room, some arguing over who was there first. 

Serious cases have to be prioritised, such as 31-year-old Rayleigh who says she can’t feel anything after being injured when her car crashed into a tree. 

She’s seen by a dedicated team, led by Dr Chris Chadwick, and thankfully makes a full recovery. 

Drunken patients are also on the hospital’s premises, putting further strain on the already busy staff. 

At the beginning of the episode, unruly patients can be seen scuffling with the security team and the police, shouting and spitting at them. 

In a very intense moment, a man can be seen being escorted outside after trying to attack a security guard. 

Triage nurse Corey examines the patients before assigning them to a department. During the episode, there is a 3h30-long wait at the A&E 

Dr Sam Protheroe, who works at Hull University Teaching Hospitals, can be seen wearing PPE, including a visor and a mask

The guards restrain the man on the floor outside the hospital, while one tells him to ‘stop spitting.’ 

Nurse Helen comments: ‘We are very lucky with our security. Because sometimes, patients are so aggressive, we’ve got to call them.’

One of the security team staff, Joshua, tells the camera: ‘That doesn’t sound very nice but I would rather I get hit by someone than a nurse.

‘I’ve been hit plenty of times and you just carry on,’ he adds with a smile and a shrug. 

Meanwhile, an unnamed doctor says: ‘We might have to look after people that may be a threat to our health.

Doctor Jehad (pictured) helps patient Simon, 53, who delayed visiting the A&E even though he fell down some stairs and was coughing up blood

‘So if you came into our emergency department, threatening to punch me, the first thing I’d have to do is make sure you are okay, meaning putting yourslef in harm’s way,’ he  goes on. 

‘So having the police and our security service in our hospital is absolutely essential,’ he says. ‘If they weren’t there, we just wouldn’t feel safe.’ 

He adds that police having to intervene and manage violent patients happened ‘every single weekend and ‘probably most nights.’

Throughout the episode, the number of drunken patients coming to the A&E only increases, with some even vomiting in plastic bags on the floor, or being abusive to staff.  

Security agent are on site at the hospital to help manage drunken and unruly patients being antagonistic 

But some patients are so afraid to put more pressure on the staff that they put their health at serious risk. 

This is the case of 53-year-old Simon, who fell down a flight of stairs but delayed his visit until the pain got unbearable. 

By the time he comes to Hull’s University Hospital, Simon admits he’s been coughing up ‘lumps of blood’ and has a large purple bruise on his left side.  

After observation, it turns out Simon has broken his ribs when hitting the bannister during his fall, but could have faced much more dangerous complication if he hadn’t come to the hospital at all. 

‘I didn’t really want to come to the hospital, because of the way things are running at the moment,’ Simon tells his nurse

‘That’s the reason I left it a bit longer than I should have. But at the moment, you don’t really want to put more pressure on people. You don’t need a silly old bugger like me who fall down the stairs.’ 

A&E After Dark airs tonight at 9pm on Channel 5.

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