Sister says working A & E night shift is “more stressful than war zone.”

 In Stress at Work

A senior nurse at one of Wales’s busiest accident and emergency departments has described a weekend night shift as more stressful than working in a warzone.

The sister at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, who previously nursed soldiers on the frontline during the 2003 Iraq invasion, said she had to make decisions “that put patients at risk and put staff under extreme pressure”.

NHS Resources may be at absolute capacity and conditions in Hospitals poor. However this will not absolve the Nationalized Organization from potential legal liability should they fail to accommodate the needs of their staff who have been off work due to stress related illnesses.

Effective and observant Management is vital here and Jo Stephenson states in her article on that Managers at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board are taking a range of measures to cope with extraordinary demand including opening more beds and hiring extra staff. However it is not only the overcrowding of patients that NHS Management will be monitoring, but they will also be compelled to monitor the health of the nurses on the “frontline” of NHS services, many of whom break down due to stress at work.

Some nurses working long hours will inevitably break down due to an accumulation of stress over time, forcing them off work. On their return, after likely “phased return” recommendations provided to the NHS by Occupational Health, it will be necessary for Management to conform with these recommendations to in order to preserve the employee’s mental health. Examples here include advising Management that the Nurse works reduced hours and/or is given support/ consultation at designated times. Failure to conform with these Recommendations may be considered a Breach of Duty of Care by the Employer. This exposes them to legal liability for stress at work claims brought by Nurse employees in the County Court.

At a time of chaos in A & E Departments, these duties may be difficult to fulfil by Management, but the structural/ organizational underlying problems inside the NHS is ultimately not due to a lack of resources as the taxpayer maintains the service. This is a consideration which may benefit Claimants in Stress at Work actions, as it imposes a duty on the employer to take reasonable steps to monitor and assist the wellbeing of their staff.

NHS resources may need to be used in a more efficient manner in order for Management to consistently discharge their Duty of Care to Employees suffering from work related stress. This will benefit the NHS as it negates the risk of actionable psychiatric injury of the employee and the subsequent risk of legal action.

If you believe that you would benefit from legal advice on this matter or believe you may have a claim against your employer, please call us on 0844 499 9302 or email


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