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Friday, 18 April 2014

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Cumbrian pensioner's eight-hour wait for hospital bed

An 86-year-old woman with dementia had to wait nearly eight hours in A&E for a hospital bed – and when she got one it didn’t even have a pillow.

Verna Wilson photo
Verna Wilson

Verna Wilson, of Corby Hill, near Carlisle, was taken ill at home a week after being discharged from the city’s Cumberland Infirmary.

She was taken by ambulance to the A&E department, where she initially had to wait in the corridor for about an hour.

She was finally moved to a cubicle at about 7.30pm but had to wait on a trolley until 2am before a bed on a ward finally became available.

Daughter Enid Bright, who was with her, said her elderly and confused mother was not given any food in that time – nor even a pillow.

When she did get on to Larch A, in the early hours of Friday, they were again told there was a shortage of pillows, so she was given a blanket rolled up inside a pillow case.

Mrs Bright said just a week earlier her mother – herself a former nurse – had told her she’d rather die than go back into hospital. “She really didn’t want to go but I persuaded her. Now I feel as though I’ve let her down.

“It was just awful, from start to finish. The whole time I was beside myself thinking ‘What have I done?’,” she said.

The hospital put the delay down to a high number of emergency admissions on Thursday night.

But Mrs Bright said she felt the whole system needed to be reviewed so elderly people were not left waiting or blocking the emergency department.

She said her mother, who was suffering from diarrhoea that had left her seriously dehydrated, was first seen by her GP just before lunch. He was keen for Mrs Wilson, a great great-grandmother, to go into hospital but she didn’t want to leave home again.

After persuasion from her daughter she agreed, but they first had to wait more than four hours for a patient transport ambulance. She arrived at A&E just after 6pm, where she waited in a wheelchair in the corridor until a cubicle was found.

Mrs Bright said: “In A&E I asked for a pillow but they said they were short of them. I had to roll up some clothes to prop her head up. Eventually they came with a blanket inside a pillow case.

“On the ward the situation was the same. There were still no pillows. She had to make do with a hard blanket inside a pillow case,” said Mrs Bright.

“There was no bedside table. They brought her a glass of water but put it on the window sill. My mother couldn’t have reached it.”

Son-in-law Jack Bright, who now plans to contact Carlisle MP John Stevenson, added: “It’s absolutely disgusting. This is 2012.

"That’s a pretty new hospital. It’s a big building, yet there are hardly any beds. How can that have ever been allowed to happen?”

A spokeswoman for North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the infirmary, said there were significant pressures in A&E that night due to a high number of emergency admissions.

“All patients were reviewed by the clinical teams and nursing care was provided. All of our staff were working extremely hard to ensure standards of care were not compromised,” she added.

The hospital’s head of nursing has since contacted the family to discuss their concerns. But Mrs Bright added that this must not be allowed to happen again. “I’m not having a go at the staff. They are under so much pressure, they can’t do their jobs properly,” she said.

“Elderly people need a lot of care, time and patience, especially those with dementia. That is not being given because managers are too focused on targets. I just feel the compassion is gone.”


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