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Pressure on hospitals is no laughing matter during Fringe

A nurse at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary has warned that the Emergency Department will be especially busy during the Fringe Festival.

Stephanie Watters, 27, has talked about the impact on local health services in August as tourists flock to the Fringe. She warned that visitors to the city put an added strain on the Emergency Department as they fail to look out for bicycles, or trip up on cobbled streets, adding that excessive drinking often plays a role in causing injuries.

Stephanie said: “We saw 7,200 patients in July and are expecting it to be more by the end of August. The other night we had 40 cubicles but 120 patients. You do wonder how you’re going to fit everyone in, because the Emergency Department can’t turn people away – we can’t say that we won’t take any more patients.

“It is a really tough, high-pressure environment to work in, but this is my dream job and I find it incredibly rewarding. I love working with the rest of the team, and always make sure to thank them at the end of my shift. Even if it has been a terrible day, I know we’ll get through it together.”

Stephanie has said that she has felt more support recently following a tough period for emergency workers post-COVID. She was speaking about her experiences in the NHS as part of eye care specialist Optical Express’s ‘Thanks A Million’ campaign, which is giving away £1 million worth of free laser eye surgery to NHS and Emergency Service workers to thank them for their continuous efforts to protect the public.

Stephanie was given free laser eye surgery by Optical Express to thank her for her service to her patients and to the NHS. She said that freedom from her glasses and contact lenses also ensures that she is safer when looking after patients.

Stephanie said: “I wore glasses when working because it was too uncomfortable to wear contact lenses for my entire 12-hour shifts. I became really fed up with it because my glasses would keep slipping off my face. I would be in serious situations and my glasses were on the floor, which wasn’t helpful when I wanted to seem professional for the patient.

“The surgery has been amazing, it’s made my job easier but there’s also the small things, like being able to watch television while lying on my side. It’s lovely to receive some thanks, obviously there was a lot of support for nurses during the pandemic, but after that I think we were vilified a bit, especially about pay.

“I think sometimes people could acknowledge that we are still trying to do our best. We haven’t really stopped since the pandemic, and even though COVID feels like less of a threat we are still at maximum capacity.”

David Moulsdale, Chairman and CEO of Optical Express, said: “Optical Express’s ‘Thanks a Million’ campaign allows us to improve the lives of so many hardworking people. We first launched the campaign because we are passionate about giving something back to those who protect the public and to acknowledge the sacrifices they made during the pandemic.

“People are rightly proud of our NHS and Emergency Service workers in this country, and they have worked tirelessly over the last three years to keep us safe. We are delighted that we can contribute to giving them the thanks that they deserve.”

It is the second time that Optical Express has chosen to thank NHS and Emergency Service workers in this way. In 2017 they launched their first ‘Thanks a Million’ campaign which saw them give away over £1 million worth of free laser eye surgery. Over the course of the two campaigns more than £2 million worth of surgery will improve the lives of NHS and Emergency Service workers. Since Optical Express was founded 32 years ago, the team are proud to have supported hundreds of humanitarian and philanthropic projects, donating over £33 million and counting to worthwhile causes in the UK and abroad.