Dr Lailah Peel said she and her colleagues were “trying as much as much as we can” as she warned that long waiting times for medical help could be a “risk to patients”.
Speaking about the situation in A&E, Dr Peel said: “It’s just dire really, there is no way of sugar coating it.”
The junior doctor told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “We’re an exhausted, broken workforce and we need measures put in place to not only recruit new staff, but retain the ones we already have and keep them safe and keep our patients safe.”
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Dr Peel said it was “not uncommon to see people crying” at work, as she stated: “It’s really scary to be working in A&E right now.”
She added: “We need to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, we need to know things are getting better.
“There is only so long you can work under these kind of pressures without it breaking you.”
She spoke out on the problems facing accident and emergency departments after NHS statistics showed 1,022 people had waited more than 12 hours for treatment – the highest weekly total recorded by the health service in Scotland.
The Scottish Government has set the target of having at least 95% of A&E patients being transferred, admitted or discharged within four hours.
But Dr Peel, the chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland’s junior doctors committee, said, in a recent shift, most patients she dealt with had waited about that time to see a doctor.
She continued: “There’s no doubt there is a risk to patients, there has been evidence that has shown long waits beyond six and eight hours in A&E does increase the 30-day mortality of patients.
“We are treating patients in A&E, we are, of course, prioritising the most sick patients, and we will always do that.
“We are offering treatment as best as we can, but with the volume of patients we have in the department it is difficult for us to monitor them safely and keep them safe, but we are trying as much as we can.”
She said that problems in A&E departments were “a symptom of the wider problem” in the NHS.
She stated: “The issue we have is exit block, we can’t get patients out of our department as quickly as they’re coming in.”
“I think we need to have realistic conversations,” Dr Peel said.
“We need to be looking at increasing the number of inpatient beds, we need to be looking at improving social care so we can get patients through our hospital systems and safely back home.”
She added: “I don’t think this is a new problem. I think if Covid was not a thing, and we had not experienced the pandemic, waiting times would still possibly be the worst they have been, just perhaps not as bad as they are right now.
“There is no magic fix, unfortunately, I wish there was.”