A&E doctors at the Royal Sussex County Hospital say the situation in emergency departments is "the worst it has ever been" - and many are thinking of quitting.

One said they “don’t think there’s anyone in the department who isn’t thinking about leaving”.

Up to 40 patients at a time are treated in corridors at the Brighton hospital due to lack of space.

Consultants said they are working as hard as possible to provide excellent care but said hospitals such as their own are "barometers of system failure".

'We have people coming in and bursting into tears'

The Argus visited A&E at the Royal Sussex and spoke to multiple consultants about the issues they face day in, day out.

Dr Fiona Barratt, an emergency medicine consultant, said: "I’ve been a consultant since 1998 and this is the worst it has ever been.

"We have people coming in and bursting into tears. We have people on shift bursting into tears because they are so stressed by the environment they are in.

"We don't want people to be scared of us but we want people to understand the pressures here."

Fellow consultant Dr Alison Beadsworth said: "There are things that happen which take the pressure off and then you breathe and then it gradually ramps up again.

The Argus: Dr Alison BeadsworthDr Alison Beadsworth (Image: Alison Beardsworth)

"Last Monday evening there were 40 people in the corridor.

"We're human beings and all of us are doing our jobs because we care deeply about what happens to these people."

‘The only way you can deal with it is by walking past it’

The revelations come after The Argus reported that patients were being treated and dying in the corridors in January. Doctors said things have since got worse and continue to deteriorate.

Another senior doctor said staff are working “as hard as they know how” but they are being forced to walk past patients in corridors without stopping to help.

The doctor, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “The only way we can deal with it is by shutting ourselves off to it.

The Argus: The Royal Sussex County HospitalThe Royal Sussex County Hospital (Image: Andrew Gardner | The Argus)

“You can stop and help with simple human responses if it’s one or two people. If it's 30 or 40 people you can’t stop and do those things.

“The only way you can deal with it is by walking past it. The person who could do it is also doing 40 other things, these are the harsh realities.”

Staff at the Royal Sussex County Hospital told The Argus that sometimes as many as 43 people are being treated in a corridor due to a lack of space in bays and cubicles.

They said conditions for patients are “an affront to their dignity” with "millimetres" between trolleys packed in "like sardines" according to nurses.

Alice Edmondson, a senior A&E nurse, said: "I was asked recently ‘what does excellent care look like?’ and it looks like how you would want your family or loved ones to be cared for.

"We are unable to do that and not for want or trying. From a nursing point of view the care that we are able to give is inadequate.

"Any patient in the corridor is wrong. When we are told it looks better today just because it's not 40, it's unacceptable.

"Nursing staff are incredibly upset day after day. There might be two nurses in the corridor for 40 patients."

‘I’m sitting down thinking ‘what else can I do for a job instead?”

The Argus was told staff had changed roles or left the department because they “couldn’t hold their head up in that environment while this is happening”.

One nurse said: "It’s the embarrassment of having to look someone in the eye and tell them their 90-year-old mother won't go into a cubicle tonight and will still be in the corridor when they come back next morning.

"When we do exit interviews people are leaving for a less stressful job. Theses are skilled, amazing nurses who cannot cope."

One member of staff said: “I’m sitting down thinking ‘what else can I do for a job instead?’ and I have worked there for years.

“I don’t think there’s anyone in the department who isn’t thinking about leaving or finding another job."

The Argus: The Royal Sussex County HospitalThe Royal Sussex County Hospital (Image: Sussex News and Pictures)

Staff said the issues at the Royal Sussex County Hospital are not unique in the NHS and the issue with corridor care is “a constant problem, not just in Brighton”.

Consultants were keen to stress, however, that the emergency department was still the safest place for those who need it and all patients would receive "excellent" care.

Dr Dan Varnai said: "This is not an A&E problem it just crystallises here. It’s a problem with the wider systems and nationally.

"Whoever comes through will get excellent care provided."

Staff fear corridor care will get still worse as the hospital prepares for  winter.

The revelations come more than a year after it was uncovered that patients were dying in the corridors of the hospital’s emergency department.

In response to the latest concerns Dr Andy Heeps, chief operating officer at University Hospitals Sussex NHS Trust which runs the Royal Sussex, said: "The pressures on patient services - both locally and elsewhere - are incredibly high and rising. Our staff are doing incredible things, every day.

The Argus: Dr Andy HeepsDr Andy Heeps (Image: University Hospitals Sussex)

Read the full hospital statement : 'We're the best place for you, we'll give you the care you need, please come to us'

"Nobody can simply make those pressures go away but we can and must do everything possible to make sure patients and their carers get the best possible care.

"The message to patients is simple - if you genuinely need emergency care, then A&E remains the best place for you to go. If you need help or advice and it isn't an emergency, there are other places to go which are better - and often quicker - options for you."

Dr Heeps said the hospital was "acting now" to try to ease the pressure on staff, including opening a new surgical assessment unit in Brighton.