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My Experience with A&E, and the Ambulance Service

The news during the last week discussed concerns and delays with treatment with A&E Departments, and that of the Ambulance service. Sadly I have been one of the many thousands to have first hand experience of what’s happening up and down the country, having been admitted to A&E no less than four times in about as many weeks during the last month.

I underwent complex abdominal surgery two months ago where complications set in post surgery. I have a surgical scar about 12 Inches across the abdomen with around 70 staples holding me together, for which I’ll have to think of an amusing story as to how I got it later…

Two weeks post surgery the staples were due to be removed, long story short, the wound dehisced. Meaning part of it opened up like a pair of Mick Jaggers lips, measuring around 6cm wide, meaning you could actually see my insides 🤢 not helped by the amount of gunk flowing out which took the nurse over 30 minutes to stem the flow, exhausting her supplies of sterile gauze and a couple of toilet rolls to mop up the mess now escaping.

I was sent to A&E to have it looked at by the surgical team.

The ambulance arrived within an hour I would say, however handover to A&E took much longer as there was a queue of Ambulances waiting to hand over their patients.

A week later the nurse was concerned the wound was Tracking (Tunnelling) since the probe now went 7cm down and the biggest probe they had was 15cm and it didn’t stop at the 5 o’clock position. I was also in extreme pain and struggling to Stand or Sit, even the funky pain relief did nothing to take the edge off the pain. I was advised by both the Nurse and the GP that I needed to go back to A&E…

Turns out, I had Sepsis again… and yes… The same hospital missed it, the same ones that missed it twice in 2019 that almost cost me my life had it not been for friends finding me unconscious.

This time the ambulance took about 5 hours to arrive, with a handover wait time of three hours from the paramedic team to hospital staff. Thank goodness for Gas and Air! The paramedics couldn’t get a cannula in my arm or hand, so they offered Gas and Air… I now know why this is so popular in the birthing suites! At this point though, the hospital was operating in Crisis Mode which meant if you were at risk of life, you were sent home, as they’d run out of beds. I was sent home, having not been seen, with the pain intensifying every second.

A week later, again, sent back to A&E, a CT Scan was finally arranged, but before the results were ready, I was sent home and told nothing wrong with you.

That following morning, I received a call from my GP explaining that there had been an error at the hospital and I shouldn’t have been discharged, clearly the wound is infected and needs urgent treatment. It was picked up by the surgical handover team. The GP arranged for an Ambulance to take me back. Eight hours later the ambulance arrived, again with a three hour wait on handover to hospital staff. This time it went over their shift change time which means they have to have an 11 hour break once handover complete, resulting in a late handover for the day team next day.

Whilst I have suffered more than my fair share of medical errors over the last five years, what struck me more was both the wait time for an ambulance to arrive and the wait time for handover. That said, I’m grateful I didn’t have to wait the 24 Hours+ some patients have reported to the mainstream media of late.

As a consequence that the ambulance can not handover to A&E staff their patients, they have no choice but to sit and wait blocking any further action by the crews. This means other patients are put at risk because it ties that ambulance up. Or in my case there were five ambulances waiting in the queue to handover before my turn.

One of the paramedics spotted me being discharged from A&E and asked how long I’d waited. I explained six hours to be seen by a Doctor once admitted into the hospital triage area. They said I was their first job of the day, and they’ve been waiting to handover their second job and had been waiting five hours and were still behind in the queue.

There needs to be a better system for patient handover, maybe a triage/staging area for intake emergencies? To free up the crews to get to more patients quicker. Holding up a limited and stark resource like this is not the answer, putting others at potential risk. Even if you’re assessed as an emergency/life threatening, if crews are held up by the hospital it’s only a matter of time.

Interestingly the crews that did turn up to help me weren’t local either, they’d travelled over 90 miles to help people in my area. How mad is that? Many of which are private ambulances which will be charging the health service at great cost.

I joked with the crew, they could just stick a name tag on my toe and leave me in the car park.

I’m not knocking the front line professionals since it’s clear they’re overstretched, under resourced and juggling too many emergencies/priorities. Some genuine, others that could be dealt with a GP if one was available.

I asked everyone involved with my case what’s causing this backlog, and the answers were very simple.

  • Lack of GP Appointments/GPs not seeing patients.
  • GPs sending their patients direct to A&E without consultation.
  • Lack of resource/funding/skilled resources available.
  • Pay not incentive enough to attract new people into the profession.
  • Increased home building which has outstripped the original capacity of the Hospital.
  • More Hospitals are clearly needed and need to be planned for when new homes are being built.

The current situation needs addressing urgently from Government down to each Trust providing health care. More hospitals are needed to cope with the increased housing and people using these services, more has to be done for nursing, health care workers, the people that do the real work, and bring their salaries up to a competitive standard, rather than rely on goodwill. I could go on, but you get my drift.

I needed an emergency CT Scan, as an outpatient the NHS had at least an eight week lead time. Go private? Not always the answer… Privately their capacity was overstretched too with a lead time greater than that of the NHS 🤷🏼‍♂️ Go figure… I can only assume more people paying or using private health insurance has clogged that system too.

I’m slowly on the mend, it’s been frustrating, because at the end of the day, I thought it would be relatively quick, an appointment with Mr Slicey Dicey the Surgeon, followed by a bit of Hurty Hurty and recovery. Of course it’s me, something always goes wrong…

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