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NHS: Crisis on the Frontline? Tonight

NHS: Crisis on the Frontline? Tonight ITV at 7.30pm Photo: ITV / Tonight

Hospital staff across the country face constant pressure as they attempt to cope with too many patients, too few beds and a shortage of staff according to the latest Tonight programme.

And NHS doctors and watchdogs say pressures which used to be confined to winter time, now last all year long.

Tonight filmed in three hospitals: Colchester General, The Royal Devon and Exeter and Birmingham City Hospital's maternity department. Here staff tell us the pressures they face on a daily basis.

Dr David Hartin, Consultant in Emergency Medicine at Colchester General Hospital Credit: ITV / Tonight

We are in a perfect storm in urgent care of increasing demand, static capacity in terms of beds, in terms of staff and austerity finance, every winter that goes by every year that goes by the demand goes up. There is only so much that you can do with the limited resources we have available in terms of space, in terms of staff and in terms of beds, to manage these people effectively."

– Dr David Hartin
Elizabeth O'Brien, Site Matron at Colchester General Credit: ITV / Tonight

On the day we film, Colchester General's site matron, Elizabeth O'Brien is short of beds for those due to come into the hospital.

We are 29 beds short of the admissions we are expecting into the hospital today, so potentially 29 patients without a bed."

– Elizabeth O'Brien

Colchester has opened a special winter pressures ward to cope with the huge demand and it has been full since January. The site matron says she hopes to close it next month.

Dr Peter Riou, Consultant in Emergency Medicine at Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital Credit: ITV / Tonight

Psychiatric patients are putting pressure on A&E. On the day we filmed at The Royal Devon and Exeter three psychiatric patients are in A&E. The psychiatric liaison team is desperately trying to find psychiatric beds for these patients.

Christina Lewis speaks to Tonight reporter Fiona Foster Credit: ITV / Tonight

At City Hospital, Birmingham, 22 babies are born on the day we film. Ward Manager Christina Lewis feels that there is so much demand for maternity services that women who have given birth feel pushed and rushed.

Sometimes as a manager you want to ask the mum, how is the feeding going, how are you getting on with the baby, but it's actually, 'Can I just have your bed, I want that instead.'"

– Christina Lewis, Ward Manager at City Hospital, Birmingham

In addition, we are facing nursing crisis with 24,000 nurse vacancies in England and Wales, while in maternity we are more than 3,500 midwives short in England.

The Department of Health told us that nearly 7,000 midwives are now in training.

NHS England told Tonight that they’ll be publishing details soon of plans to improve patient care, cut admissions into hospital and reduce pressure on beds and staff.

The Department of Health said: There are many more doctors and nurses working on wards than in 2010 and that more than three million people were treated within the four hour target in December and January.

Useful links:

  • If you’re unsure of when you should use your A&E then visit the Why A&E? website
  • If you are unsure where your nearest GP surgery is you can check here
  • Click here for more details about the NHS 111 service

NHS: Crisis on the Frontline? is on ITV this evening at 7.30pm.

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