Sutton Guardian reporter, Sophia Sleigh, spends a night in St Helier Hospital's accident and emergency ward
With St Helier accident and emergency (A&E) under threat, reporter Sophia Sleigh spent an evening there to see the vital work it does.
Friday night in accident and emergency is my worst nightmare but there was only one way to see for myself the important role the department plays in our community.
I hate blood and shudder at all things surgical but I pulled myself together to get a first hand account of St Helier Hospital’s A&E department as it faces closure.
As I arrived at the hospital it was pouring with rain and I felt sick with nerves at what I might see.
The trust’s communications manager, Claire Proudlock, joined me while I was shown around by staff nurse, Daisy Barrett.
I was whisked to the waiting room to gain a glimpse of just how busy A&E was at 7pm on a Friday - there were around 15 people waiting to be seen.
There were people crying, clutching parts of their body and wearing bandages and I soon learnt the unpredictable nature of A&E.
The receptionists told me that each night was different and what came in could depend on what’s on TV - for example lots of people come in at the end of a football match.
My next stop was the triage room where patients are streamed according to what sort of care they need.
I soon realised what a community hospital St Helier is when nurse Fiona Tregoiing told me she had been working there for 22 years.
She spoke about the huge changes she had seen in that time and how the A&E gets busier year upon year.
This contrasts healthcare review, Better Services Better Value, which is proposing to cut St Helier’s A&E, which relies on more people being treated in the community and less people visiting A&E.
We went on to view the most important area which is the resuscitation department. The room was quiet with curtains drawn around patient’s beds and there was a wealth of technical equipment.
This is where they deal with the most seriously ill and injured patients and I could not believe how tiny the cot and equipment was that they use for babies.
If St Helier Hospital lost its A&E department, patients would go to St George's Hospital in Tooting instead. Standing in the resuscitation room made me wonder if that longer journey to hospital would make a difference.
A recent report carried out by health pressure group, Sutton Link, has raised fears of patient survival if the plans to axe St Helier Hospital’s A&E department went ahead.
I felt really nervous when I went on to the "majors" ward people were lying in beds moaning in pain, others wandering around clutching parts of their body.
Every bed was full and as soon as a patient was moved on their bed was quickly remade and filled again by another patient.
The whole ward goes through bursts of energy - one minute all is calm and quiet and the next minute the police have arrived, patients are coming out of ambulances and security are called to deal with aggressive patients.
I got quite scared when some patients became abusive and security guards Ray Nelms and Chris Hampshire were called in to diffuse the situation.
It dawned on me the level of stress the staff have to deal with yet they all remained so calm - even managing to go about their business while speaking to me at the same time.
I spoke to two busy nurses on the ward, Janika King who had worked at the hospital for 14 years and Claire Berry who had been there for seven years.
They told me how they often get the same patients coming in and even saw them when they were out and about in Sutton.
The staff have 12 and a half hour shifts with an hour for break and lunch. Sometimes it gets so busy and the stream of patients is so constant that it is not always possible to get away.
I really admired and envied the staff for how calm and happy they were all the time and it was clear they all love their jobs.
My last stop was to the paediatric A&E ward where I met a two and a half year old boy called Ashley who suffers from asthma and was rushed in as his breathing worsened.
While Ashley was holding a mask to his face to help his breathing his grandmothers Christine Garland and Sue Post spoke of the distress they would have faced had they had to rush him to St George’s in Tooting with no food or drink with them.
Spending a night in A&E made me realise what a vital lifeline St Helier’s A&E is for the community and common sense told me it should retain this vital service.
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