Overworked staff at ‘24 hours in A&E’ hospital caught sleeping on the job

 

It is a leading NHS hospital whose doctors, nurses and porters became household names through a warts-and-all documentary, 24 Hours in A&E. But behind the scenes at King’s College Hospital, staff have been borrowing patients’ pillows, linen and mattresses to sleep on the job, it can be revealed.

The leading major trauma unit in south London has become a microcosm of the wider NHS, according to trade unions claiming workers are being required to work longer hours than ever.

In a document seen by The Independent, workers at King’s were warned: “There have been a number of recent incidents where staff have been found asleep on duty, or it has been reported that staff have been asleep on duty.”

Hospital workers were found sleeping during night shifts. But there have also been reports of workers sleeping during the day. “In some cases, hospital linen and pillows, or patient mattresses, have been used by staff. This is completely unacceptable,” staff at King’s were told.

While senior managers at the hospital admit that sleeping on duty “used to be common” when doctors and nurses were working for extended periods, they add that this is “no longer the case”.

They stress that hospitals are now “much busier” than in previous years with “acutely ill patients who need care 24 hours per day”. The twin drivers of increased demand at hospitals across Britain are obesity – and associated medical conditions – and an ageing population requiring more treatment.

At King’s, emergency situations are now said to be more common than ever before, and staff have been told to be “alert and able to respond should these occur during their break time”.

“There is no reason for any staff member to be asleep on duty. There are no exceptions – this applies to clinical and non-clinical staff,” employees were told.

Research released by the Royal College of Physicians last year found that 37 per cent of medical registrars – the workhorses of hospital care – said their workloads were “unmanageable”. The RCP said hospital workers were at “crisis point” while the NHS could struggle to provide the best care for patients if the workload on staff was not “urgently reviewed”.

In May last year, while touring the south London hospital, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted that “more A&E staff were needed” in light of surging demand and increased workloads. He told ITV News that even though there were 6,000 more doctors than at the time of the last election, more staff were needed to cope with surging demand.

A month later, a Unite survey of NHS employees found that 61 per cent of people frequently or always worked longer than their contractual hours. Some 85 per cent of respondents said their workloads had increased in the past 12 months.

Rachael Maskell, Unite’s head of health told The Independent: “With the cuts and restructuring going on in the NHS, people have to work longer hours, under more stress and with less compensation – this is simply unsustainable. If they are too tired to work Unite would strongly advise staff to inform their managers in order to protect patient safety, but it is symptomatic of the culture of fear that exists in many trusts if staff do not feel that they can.”

A spokesman for King’s College Hospital said: “There have been isolated incidents of staff being found asleep whilst on duty. Incidents such as this are rare. However, they are entirely unacceptable, and we have been communicating the seriousness of this with our staff. Providing top quality care for our patients is our number one priority. To do this, staff must be vigilant and alert at all times.”

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup