Stepping into the emergency department at the Royal Sussex County Hospital was always going to come with a feeling of slight trepidation. After the testimony of members of staff trying to combat “unacceptable” corridor care it was difficult to know what to expect.

What I saw somehow felt like the calm before the storm - as in reality this is just the start of a winter likely to be even more testing.

When we visited the hospital we were taken through the A&E department where we saw the usual waiting area and visited different rooms and corridors where patients were being tended to. In the clinical decision unit we saw less severe patients being treated among the bustle of doctors and nurses.

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

Walking through the ambulance area is where you get the greatest sense of the pressures staff in the department are under.

There were around 15 patients in a corridor entering the main A&E department. Patients were parked side-by-side on hospital trolleys with millimetres separating them.

Everywhere you look there are patients being treated with nurses and doctors keeping a constant eye on those in their care.

Of the 15 patients in the corridor which staff had told me about I could see roughly eight or nine trolleys parked next to each other. 

We have heard much about the issues with corridor care in A&E departments nationwide and for those who have not experienced it then. it may be easy to think that these are clinical spaces that look like corridors.

What is most shocking about the situation is that the worst is likely yet to come. We saw these patients already being treated in the corridors and yet dozens more will be arriving at the doors of the department when the cold weather hits.

Despite having stood in the corridor I still cannot fathom how 40 patients could fit in that space. Doctors and nurses have told me that is how bad it has been at times.

I can only begin to imagine the stress that the extremely hard-working nurses and doctors are facing while still providing the best care they can under such pressure.

It amazes me how staff go to work every day and keep going to work knowing what might face them.

Speaking to staff it does not surprise me to hear that doctors and nurses have left or are considering leaving emergency medicine because they cannot face being so thinly stretched that they cannot provide the care they set out to provide.

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

It is important to stress that A&E is still the best place if you need it.

Hospital staff are passionate about keeping patients healthy and continue to do the best they can under incredibly difficult circumstances.

One thing from my visit it clear – whatever the situation we need to keep spreading the message that this is not okay. Only then can we keep calling for change on a national level and force the government to make the decisions needed.