“Before you set off for your emergency, pack a lunch, a couple of decent books and a pillow,” warned local butcher Andy Osgerby after a 13-hour visit to Lincoln County Hospital’s A&E department.
Bosses at Lincolnshire’s under-pressure emergency departments told The Lincolnite ‘winter surge plans’ are in place to ensure safe care is delivered, as patients face unprecedented delays.
Double-jabbed Mr Osgerby, who says he has suffered lung scarring post COVID-19, has asthma and became short of breath at around lunchtime on November 9.
His symptoms got worse, and after deciding to ‘soldier on’, reminding himself his walk-in centre had been closed down, he collapsed.
Andy, who has ambitions to write a book, wrote to The Lincolnite to highlight his experience after calling 111.
He hopes his account, and those of other patients, will highlight an NHS at ‘breaking point’, as well as inspire better funding and resources.
Below is an extract from his letter:
“The nice lady on the end of the phone is exceptional, reassuring and helpful. Apparently being out of breath to the point of collapse isn’t normal.
“Half an hour goes by and my, ever patient-ish, better half stalks the street outside. But no sirens disturb the cool night air. Another 20 mins goes past in vain and then my phone rings. It’s the ambulance service. A side note here, who the hell is unlucky enough to be given this awful role? Bless her, the lady fulfills it to the best of her ability.
“Basically, there are no ambulances available and the wait time for someone at my level of predicament is about six hours. Wait, what?! Okay then, I’ll ask my dad to drive me to A&E. The lady on the phone is greatly relieved.
“I arrive and explain myself, slowly and difficulty. I’m whisked almost immediately to A&E proper. The other bit is a new, shiny ‘pre-A&E, out-of-hours/everything-else’ area. I’m not seated long before I’m taken through for an ECG, blood tests and other such medical stuff, that everyone who’s ever seen Holby City knows well.
“The doc appears and asks his questions, I diligently answer as best I can through gasped breaths. He’s not sure what the issue could be, but given my history a nebuliser seems reasonable and a chest x ray.
“Awesome, this is going well I’ll be home in no time. Ah, but the little room should have held more warnings.
“I have the nebuliser, thank God I can breathe easier, finally! These guys are good! Straight for my chest x ray. “Go and wait in the waiting room and the doctor will call you through, you should be about half an hour”.
“Only he doesn’t though.
“It’s not that he isn’t calling me, it’s that he isn’t calling anyone. In fact there doesn’t seem to be a he or she or they to call anyone. Hang on, yep, there are no staff in here at all.
“Only the same faces sat in our perspex separated seats that were here three hours ago. Time passes as I listen to the secret barrister’s latest audio book (I recommend it).
“Then an NA (?) comes around with a tea trolly and gives out free brews and sarnies. I’ve never seen this in hospital before, truly amazing. Another bad sign really, the guys here know how long it’ll take to be seen and they know we’re going to need sustaining.
“The doc comes, he’s here for a patient that a different doctor admitted to a ward about two hours ago, should I tell him as he calls the name in vain?
“I see a friend, an ambulance tech. He laughs. He’s been parked outside for three hours waiting for a bed for his patient.
“Along with anywhere from three to 11 other ambulances at any one time (this explains the six-hour wait) there are no beds to put the patient in, literally.
“He and his ambulance partner are taking turns searching for a trolley to leave their patient on in a corridor so they can head back out.
“He leaves and hopes he won’t see me again tonight. Place your bets now.
“So this sorry little saga continues, shall I say something? Have I been overlooked by mistake? Me and the … 22 (sorry quick head count) other people, most of whom were sat down when I got here.
“Time passes. As I write this, it’s 27 minutes past 4am, I arrived at 9pm. The waiting room chairs are now all taken, there are people leaning against the walls and slumped in wheel chairs they didn’t need when they arrived.
“The guy who got admitted into a ward is back in the waiting room (no beds). I reckon, on rough maths, that someone gets called once every 40 to 70 mins.
“At what point do I decide that, actually it turns out I’m fine, I can live with not being able to breathe properly and go home?
“I take the plunge “I’m sorry to bother you guys, but can I just, like go home?” I’m told no, the doctor does need to see me. Eventually I see the doctor, more tests are conducted, more time is waited and finally (with yet another new doctor) I’m discharged.
“It’s now 9.55am, almost 13 hours since I blundered through the shiny new doors full of hope that I would be made to breathe freely again. At least six of the now familiar faces, the lorry driver, the Russian mum and her young son, still remain where they were when I arrived.
“Question though: Whose fault is this? Not these guys, these knackered and strained NHS workers staring at me through bagged eyes over crinkled face masks. That’s for sure.
“But then the MPs tell us everything’s fine with the service. It’s not at breaking point, or maybe so far past breaking point that you can’t even see it in the mirror. Nothing to see here, and besides, like education, it’ll definitely, probably, almost possibly, soon return to 2010 levels of funding! Hurrah! Let’s all go celebrate with a few pence cheaper pint. Don’t dwell on that too long, it becomes painful.
“If, like me, you’re far too poor to afford private healthcare, take my advice. Before you set off for your emergency, pack a lunch, a couple of decent books and a pillow.”
Andy is waiting to find out what caused his symptoms, with further investigations undertaken by his GP.
He hopes patients will continue to highlight their experiences to the government.
United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust chief operating officer Simon Evans said: “We cannot comment on individual cases.
“We are experiencing significant demand on our hospital services, which is being driven by an increase in the need for emergency care, while we also continue to work hard to restore and maintain services impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“All of our A&Es have been extremely busy, in line with the rest of the country, but we have winter and surge plans in place to ensure that safe care is consistently delivered. This includes patients being assessed as soon as possible after they arrive. We always prioritise our most unwell patients, which may mean that at times some patients may wait longer than we would like for further elements of their care.
“Our message to the public is that if you need help and it’s not a 999 emergency, we ask you to consider if you can be helped by [a] GP or local pharmacy, or visiting NHS 111 online for clinical advice, assessment and for direction to the most appropriate services for your treatment.”