'Patients aren't getting the care they deserve' - life and death in a Bristol hospital

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A junior doctor has claimed patients in his hospital are dying before they can be admitted to a ward because staff can't keep up with demand.

Sam Taylor-Smith says capacity at Southmead Hospital in Bristol is stretched to breaking point and he and his colleagues can't give people the care they need.

ITV News West Country followed Sam's working day after he agreed to shine a light on what he says are the daily battles driving some of his colleagues either overseas or out of the profession altogether.

"I know that there's going to be a lot of patients waiting," said the 27-year-old as he set off from home a little after 7am. "I know we're making makeshift wards in corridors to look after patients. I know that the list of patients needed to be seen is going to be huge.

"It's got to a point where there isn't a quiet day. There's always something amiss or something going wrong."

Four years into life as a qualified junior doctor, Sam says his team is consistently being asked to do more without the resources to match.

Southmead Hospital

"What is worrying for me is that I don't think we are able to give patients the care that they deserve, particularly around this time of year and that's the sort of thing that weighs heavily on everyone."

Sam says 62-hour working weeks of overnights and weekends are not uncommon.

He's a member of the British Medical Association which is currently balloting junior doctors over strike action. If approved, it is due to start in March.

Members are demanding a 33% pay rise after what they claim is years of below inflation pay awards which has resulted in a 26% real-terms cut in pay.

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After arriving at Southmead Hospital, Sam learns three colleagues in his team of eight are absent.

"One of my friends has just been pulled down to the Emergency Department because there are 18 patients who have been there for over 24 hours since the decision to admit them," he explains. "It looks as if once again we are firefighting as we always are."

At the end of his shift, Sam says public gratitude alone won't keep people in a profession he believes is chronically under-funded.

"I love the job and that does play a big part for me but I do worry.

"If I couldn't work full-time I think I'd really struggle and I think that would probably mean that I would have to go and look for work elsewhere or in a different career or abroad."

Doctors' union the BMA is balloting for strike action, possibly starting in March Credit: ITV News

A North Bristol NHS Trust spokesperson said: “Our staff are working incredibly hard, in challenging circumstances, to provide the best care they can for our patients.

“Like the wider NHS we are extremely busy and are seeing high numbers of very sick patients.  In addition,  a lot of patients on our wards no longer need hospital treatment but we are unable to free these beds up due to a lack of suitable alternatives in the community or at home.   

“We are sorry to any patients who have not had the best experience during this time.

“Support is in place for all our staff and we encourage anyone with concerns to raise them directly with us so that we can address specific issues promptly."