A man who suffered two cardiac arrests last year was kept waiting in an ambulance for three hours outside Lincoln County Hospital after falling ill.
Mo Sutton became unwell on Monday evening with breathing difficulties. When the ambulance finally reached Lincoln it had to join a queue of 10 ambulances waiting to deliver patients.
Mr Sutton’s experience has highlighted the extreme pressure A&Es around the country are experiencing. United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) said its A&Es have been under pressure this winter and have ‘experienced extreme pressure’ in the past week.
Mr Sutton’s daughter, Sarah-Louise Harper, who lives close to her father in Barrowby, said she believes the closure of Grantham A&E must be having an effect on A&E at Lincoln. She said that ambulance staff told her that her father would have been taken to Grantham Hospital if A&E had been open.
Fearing Mr Sutton might be having another cardiac arrest, his family called the NHS helpline on 111. Mrs Harper said: “We had contacted the GP at 5.30pm as my Dad, who has had a cold and terrible cough since Christmas, was feeling dizzy and breathless.
“The GP told us that if they hadn’t called back by 6pm to call 111, which we did at 6.15pm – they told us that due to his recent history and how he was presenting they would send an ambulance straight out to him.”
She added: “At 7.45pm the ambulance arrived and after running some tests they said they would take him in and that had Grantham been open he would’ve been taken there, but that they would have to take him to Lincoln Hospital. I followed on in the car.
“We arrived at Lincoln and there were 10 ambulances including ours waiting to hand over patients. As there was nowhere to go we sat in the back of the ambulance until just after midnight, so three hours with no heat in the ambulance.
“A consultant came out to all the ambulances to triage the patients, which we were told never, ever happens.”
Mr Sutton was eventually admitted to A&E at midnight and had to wait a further hour on a trolley before making it into a cubicle, just after 1am. A nurse saw him and took bloods and did observations before a doctor saw him about 2.30am and suspected that he may have a blood clot on his lungs.
He was taken for a CT scan at 4.30am and was told he would go to medical admissions once there was a bed available. Mrs Harper rang the hospital around 11am to be told her father was still sat in A&E. He was eventually transferred to the ward early afternoon.
Mrs Harper said: “The staff are completely under so much pressure and run off their feet. Yet it is reported that the closure of Grantham Hospital at night has had no impact at Lincoln which, after what we saw on Monday, I really beg to differ.
“It is disgraceful how they are putting lives at risk locally. They are putting up lots of new houses in the town yet taking more of our hospital away each year. It’s horrendous and no one should be treated this way or have to wait for as long as we waited on Monday.
“The people on the frontline are doing an amazing job. It’s those that sit behind the desks as executives and the Government that are putting lives at risk and effectively have blood on their hands. I don’t know how they sleep at night.”
Michael Woods, interim director of operations at ULHT, apologised for the lengthy delays patients are experiencing.
He said: “Over the last few months we have seen a significant rise in demand on all of our A&Es.
“In line with the reported national pressures the trust has experienced severe pressures over the last week, resulting in our inability to see, treat and admit patients as quickly as we would like.
“During these times we always prioritise the sickest patients to ensure appropriate care is given, however for some this will mean that they will invariably experience long waits, for which we apologise.
“The quality and safety of patient care is the trust’s number one priority and would urge members of the public to avoid unnecessary visits to A&E as these limit the resources available to treat those who need specialist emergency care. We want all patients who go to A&E with serious illnesses or injuries to be seen and treated as quickly as possible.”
Mr Woods called on people to consider whether self- care, a pharmacy, a GP or practice nurse, GP out of hours services, minor injury services or NHS 111 would be more appropriate, rather than hospital care.
Blanche Lentz, paramedic and general manager for Lincolnshire at East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS), apologised to Mr Sutton and his family for being unable to help them sooner.
She added: “We, like other NHS organisations, are continuing to see an increase in the number of patients accessing our service. When hospitals are busy we can experience delays in them accepting our patients.
“On Monday, we had 22 occasions where ambulance crews experienced a delay of over an hour at Lincoln County Hospital waiting for them to accept our patients. When this happens our crews aren’t able to get back out on the road to respond to patients who are waiting in the community.
“The NHS continues to be extremely busy and the staff behind the service are working exceptionally hard for their patients. I want to thank our staff, many of whom are working beyond their 12-hour shift due to waiting at hospital to handover their patients. Their continued dedication is appreciated.”
EMAS said that it experienced an 18.6 per cent increase in calls in December, compared with December 2015. Despite this, paramedics reached 1,485 more red (most serious) patients within eight minutes. Across the East Midlands, EMAS lost 2,000 hours to hospital hand-over delays last month.
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