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‘Hospital is full, we have no beds, ring relatives and ask them to bring pillows and blankets’ – A&E nursing sister at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow tells patients

A man has revealed that an A&E nursing sister told patients to call their relatives to ask them to bring blankets and pillows as Princess Alexandra Hospital was full and they faced spending the night on chairs.

The 80-year-old Elsenham man had been told to go to the A&E unit at the Harlow hospital on Monday (July 8) after he pierced his chin on a fence.

He had treated the wound at home with ointment, but after pus began appearing he realised it had become infected and he contacted Stansted Surgery in Castle Maltings.

A receptionist advised him to go to the minor injuries unit at Herts and Essex Hospital in Bishop’s Stortford, but staff there told him they could not treat his wound and to phone the NHS 111 service.

After answering questions posed by the clinician as he sat in the car park, the man was told he was “booked in” to A&E at PAH and he drove to the hospital, arriving at around 11.30am.

“I arrived and it was packed. When I went outside there were ambulances parked up, queueing,” he said. “In all the corridors people were on beds.”

After a few hours spending much of the time in the minor injuries unit, he was taken to a ward within A&E to have antibiotics administered.

“While I was there a sister came out and said ‘I’ve got to share this: the hospital is full and we have no beds. Could people phone their relatives and ask them to bring blankets and pillows.’

“I spoke to a doctor and he said it’s like that day after day.”

The man stressed the staff were “marvellous” and he could not fault them.

“How they do it I don’t know,” he said. “The sister had to chase the nurses out [when they finished their shift] saying they’d done enough.”

Following Labour’s General Election victory on Thursday, new Health and Social Care Secretary Wes Streeting said the policy of his department was that the NHS was broken.

Mr Streeting added: “That is the experience of patients who are not receiving the care they deserve and of the staff working in the NHS who can see that, despite giving their best – this is not good enough.”

Stephanie Lawton, chief operating officer at the Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust, said: ”As with all hospitals, we have seen a considerable increase in the demand for our urgent and emergency care services.

“We are working closely with our ambulance, community and primary care colleagues to identify all alternative pathways for patients to improve patient experience at our hospital at all times, including during periods of increased pressure.

“Demand for our services has been high across a variety of illnesses and injuries. We have also seen a small increase in Covid cases and diarrhoea and vomiting cases, which impacts on the capacity available.”

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