The Evening Telegraph has gone behind the scenes at Ninewells Hospital. Given access to five departments, the extraordinary work of the men and women of stretched and exhausted yet determined NHS Tayside is highlighted by reporter Lindsey Hamilton.
THREE weeks ago a man was taken in a blue light ambulance from his home in Angus to Ninewells Hospital with serious breathing difficulties.
His condition was so critical that he was immediately taken to the high dependency unit (HDU), part of the hospital’s Acute Medical Unit (AMU).
Almost a month on he’s still a patient there, but is now well enough to get out of bed by himself. He hopes to be transferred to a general hospital ward before being discharged.
The 64-year-old spoke to the Tele during a behind-the-scenes visit to the AMU, one of five departments which we have been given access to highlight the work of NHS Tayside.
The patient, who asked not to be named, believes the AMU team who treated him may well have saved his life. He said: “I was brought in here three weeks ago and have remained here since because I was too ill to be moved.
“I’m on the mend now but if it wasn’t for the team I might not be here today.”
For anyone who has spent any time as an inpatient at Ninewells Hospital, then the chances are they were seen in the first instance by the AMU team.
The unit sees roughly 99% of all medical admissions to the hospital, and it’s here the doctors and nurses decide where each patient goes next.
Heading the team is Dr Alasdair Moonie, clinical lead for acute medicine at Ninewells.
Dr Moonie said: “We can see between 40 and 70 referrals every day of the week. Of these, 70% tend to be referred by their GP and 30% come to us from accident and emergency.
“If someone comes to us very unwell we see them immediately.
“Otherwise patients will be seen within 60 minutes by a nurse for initial assessment and have tests including blood pressure, x-rays and ECG monitoring carried out.
“Following that we ensure every patient is seen within four hours by a senior doctor, a consultant like myself during the day or a senior registrar at night.”
Dr Moonie said AMU deals with a huge variety of conditions including respiratory complaints, pneumonia, chest pains, COPD, diabetes and infections.
He said: “After initial assessment the team then make the call about whether a patient can go home or needs to be admitted to another specialist ward in the hospital.”
Patients remain in AMU for between 24 to 48 hours on average, but there is also a short-stay unit and an ambulatory assessment unit where patients who are less critical can be assessed.
Senior charge nurse is Karen Morris, who is responsible for the unit’s day-to-day running and in charge of 81 staff members. She said: “We are an incredibly busy unit. We have 31 beds and on average we have 45 patients coming to us every day.
“We’re responsible for assessing patients and can call on specialists from throughout the hospital to help.”
Mandy Smith, senior charge nurse at HDU, said: “We have six beds for critically ill patients and can keep them for as long as necessary.”