NHS hospital boss driven to A&E because of fears of ambulance delays

Boss of NHS hospital who suffered a suspected stroke was DRIVEN to A&E by her husband because he feared an ambulance wouldn’t arrive in time to save her

  • Hospital boss Deborah Lee suffered signs of a stroke at home on Friday last week
  • Having heard her complain of ambulance delays, her husband drove her to A&E 
  • Some stroke patients are waiting hours for ambulances, the target is 18 minutes 

Deborah Lee, chief executive of an NHS hospital said her husband opted to drive her to A&E rather than wait for an ambulance

An NHS hospital boss suffering a suspected stroke was directly driven to hospital by her husband who feared an ambulance would arrive too late to save her. 

Deborah Lee, chief executive of Gloucestershire Hospitals Foundation Trust, detailed the experience in a series of Tweets today and said Government needed to take urgent action.

She described how she had a bit of ‘turn’ on April 22, which left her lop-sided and unable to speak. 

Now recovered from the ordeal she said: ‘I can’t get one thing out of my head: What if my husband hadn’t been there and my daughter had called for an ambulance and I’d been put in the Cat 2 “stack”.’

Ambulance response times in England have risen to their worst levels on record, official figures show. Over-stretched paramedics have even urged Brits to make their own way to A&E due to the demand on services. 

Last month the average response time last month for ambulances in England dealing with the category one incidents – the life-threatening illnesses or injuries – was nine minutes and 35 seconds.

This is up from eight minutes and 51 seconds in February and is the longest average since current records began in August 2017.

Mrs Lee, who has worked in the NHS for over 30 years, said her husband had heard her ‘lamenting’ about ambulance delays, so chose to drive her to A&E when she displayed symptoms of a stroke last Friday, rather than call 999.

Mrs Lee, who was suffering signs of stroke, is head of Gloucestershire Hospitals Foundation Trust (pictured here)

On Twitter Mrs Lee described how husband bundled her into a car rather than wait for ambulance after hearing her ‘lament’ over handover delays

Mrs Lee said the South West has the worst ambulance handover delays of any region 

She also urged the Government to take action in social care to ensure people could get out of hospitals freeing up space for ambulances to drop patients off. 

A stroke is a serious life-threatening medical condition that happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off.

Symptoms of a stroke The main symptoms of stroke can be remembered with the word FAST: 

  • Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have dropped. 
  • Arms – the person with suspected stroke may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of weakness or numbness in one arm.
  • Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake; they may also have problems understanding what you’re saying to them. 
  • Time – it’s time to dial 999 immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms.

The act was contrary to official NHS guidance on strokes which advises people to dial 999 if they see someone experiencing the signs of stroke. 

In the South West, where Mrs Lee works, the average response time for a category two calls, which include strokes and heart attacks, is at one hour 53 minutes – the highest in England.

The target response time for this category of calls is 18 minutes.

Mrs Lee said that ‘my system is working unrelentingly’ to bring response times down, but added that this was ‘to no great avail’.

‘[There is] no silver bullet and I don’t have the answer, but government has the power to generate one’, she said.

England’s ambulance delays have partly attributed to a lack of capacity within social care services, meaning patients cannot be discharged from NHS hospitals.

This means NHS beds are not free to take ambulance patients, forcing them to wait and sometimes even be treated in the vehicles outside of A&E. 

Mrs Lee called on the Government to overhaul social care by improving training and pay for staff, adding that it needs to ‘build a sector that people want to join, stay in and feel proud to belong to’.

Earlier this month it was revealed volunteer drivers will be sent to drive patients who call 999 to hospital in a bid to tackle the soaring waiting times.

The NHS-funded scheme will be piloted by the London Ambulance Service (LAS). 

These drivers will help patients who need an urgent response within two hours, classed as ‘category three’, and those who need help because of mobility problems.

It is hoped the move will free up ambulance crews following multiple reports of heart attack and stroke victims waiting hours in agony for ambulances to arrive.

NHS England data shows medics took an average of one hour, one minute and three seconds last month to respond to emergency calls, such as heart attacks, strokes, burns and epilepsy, in March. The figure is up from 42 minutes and seven seconds in February and is the longest time on record (red bars). It is also more than triple the NHS target of 18 minutes

Frail elderly mother is left screaming in pain as she waited TEN hours for an ambulance ‘which should have arrived within 18 minutes’ after her desperate son was told ‘there were none available’

A frail and elderly mother was left screaming in pain as she waited 10 hours for an ambulance as the appalling wait times for emergency care continue to be laid bare.

Stuart Donald was alerted by his mother’s care provider at North Lincolnshire Council that she had pushed the emergency button on her lifeline alarm that she wears around her neck after being unable to get out of bed.

The care provider contacted Mr Donald at 7am that morning, who told carers his ‘frail’ mother required an ambulance. 

He dialled 111, who told him his mother required emergency care. Two hours later, Mr Donald was contacted by the East Midlands Ambulance service who promised to send an ambulance ‘within six hours’.

His elderly mother’s realised she couldn’t put any pressure on her legs without experiencing severe pain, but without the prospect of any medical assistance arriving her son drove 20 miles to go and help her.

Arriving at her Scunthorpe home, Mr Donald called for a family member to help him move his mother, but they failed so he again called for an ambulance six hours later.

‘I said: ‘My mother is sat in absolute agony and we physically can’t move her, we need help – you must have capacity’, and he said, ‘No, not at the moment, but as soon as someone becomes available we’ll send someone’. 

After upgrading the incident to a ‘Category Two’ response six hours later, medics should have arrived at the property within 18 minutes. 

Despite this, it took the ambulance service 10 hours to finally arrive. They have since apologised for the incident and explained they must ‘prioritise the sickest and most severely injured patients first’.

Mr Donald slammed the service for ‘failing to protect the public’ after his mother’s ordeal.

Stuart Donald was alerted by his mother’s care provider at North Lincolnshire Council that she had pushed the emergency button on her lifeline alarm that she wears around her neck after being unable to get out of bed 

After first realising she was unable to get out of bed without screaming in pain, Mr Donald’s mother pushed her alarm button at 7am on Sunday, April 24.

North Lincolnshire Council, her care provider, initially contacted Mr Donald’s brother, who was in intensive care, but reached him who told them his mother required an ambulance.

After trying to move her himself, he explained: ‘She said she couldn’t stand up and that she’d been stuck there and she daren’t move sideways because she couldn’t put weight on her legs, and she was scared she’d fall off the bed.

‘I couldn’t move her so I rang another family member to help move her, but we couldn’t. 

‘We tried to lift her up and she just screamed in pain. We knew then it was an emergency because we had a frail old lady who had been sat on the edge of the bed for six hours, shaking and shivering. 

‘It was awful. I rang back and spoke to a very professional lady who said they recognised they hadn’t got to my mum but that it had been upgraded to a Category Two incident’.

According to the East Midlands Ambulance Service website, Category two incidents are classed as an emergency and should be responded to within 18 minutes 

Elsewhere, patients have shared their stories of agonising waits for ambulances as NHS England last month admitted it is struggling to cope with a surge in demand and high staff absence rates.

It comes as dozens of others across the country have reported ‘horrendous’ waiting times, with the Liberal Democrats describing the ambulance services as being at ‘breaking point’. 

The ambulance crew eventually arrived at 7.10pm – around ten hours after Mr Donald first called the ambulance for his mother.

He said: ‘They were brilliant with my mum, I can’t fault them at all. 

‘They did checks and said she needed to go to hospital because she’s clearly not right, and she needed hospital care. They took her in an ambulance at about 7.50pm.

‘But they’re playing a gambling game. 

‘There cannot be adequate cover if it takes nine-plus hours for an emergency response. What would have happened if my mum had deteriorated?

‘She was screaming in pain and I was crying because I couldn’t lift her. I was so frustrated because I just didn’t know what else I could do.’  

Sue Cousland, Divisional Director for Lincolnshire at East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) said: ‘We are really sorry that we were not able to get to her sooner and this is not the level of service we aim to provide for our patients.

‘Unfortunately, we continue to experience a sustained level of life-threatening and serious emergency calls and we continually work to prioritise the sickest and most severely injured patients first.

‘We are working very closely with all of our health and social care partners to improve the response to patients in Lincolnshire.’

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