As recent figures show that the NHS is experiencing the worst Accident and Emergency performance levels in 10 years, the Daily Telegraph has reported that untrained administrative staff are being drafted in to help healthcare workers in A&E departments.

In the two weeks over Christmas, almost 21,000 patients waited between four and 12 hours on trolleys and at least 14 NHS hospitals declared major incidents, cancelling operations and outpatient appointments.

It is reported that trusts across the country are desperately seeking to recruit hundreds of foreign nurses to address the shortfall in staff numbers. For instance, in North Wales over 70 Spanish nurses have been brought in to help struggling casualty departments and many staff are working unpaid overtime to meet demands. Hospitals in the West Midlands have been forced to recruit 140 volunteers and administrative staff to help health workers.

Commenting on the crisis facing Britain’s A&E departments, Lucie Prothero, associate at Penningtons Manches, said: “The A&E crisis can be seen in the context of the dangerous underfunding of social care which is having a particular impact on the elderly. By removing community support for vulnerable and older people, it increases the likelihood of them ending up in hospital – adding to the burden on overstretched A&E departments. With greater support at home and good out of hours services, there should be scope to reduce the number of unnecessary hospital admissions.

“While there must be appropriate support in the community, this debate must not detract from the importance of ensuring that patients who need hospital care receive the right management when admitted. The chronic under-resourcing and under-staffing seen in A&E departments raises serious concerns about the potential impact on patient safety. We deal with many claims relating to the poor treatment of patients in hospital, often involving older patients. The pressure on A&Es needs to be relieved to ensure better care for patients who genuinely need admission to hospital.”