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Patient waited 10 hours for a bed after surgery at William Harvey Hospital

By Rachael Woods

Terry Thorpe, 57, was moved to three recovery areas in a 10-hour post-operative ordeal, which he describes as being like “musical beds”.

He was admitted to the William Harvey Hospital last Friday for parathyroid surgery, which he needed to remove a gland producing too much of the parathyroid hormone, causing dangerous high levels of calcium in his blood.

Town councillor Terry Thorpe

Town councillor Terry Thorpe

After his operation was completed at 4pm, Mr Thorpe spent an hour in a recovery area, before being moved to a second recovery bay at around 5pm, which he shared with other post-operative patients.

But the granddad was to spend the next seven hours in limbo as the search to find him a permanent bed got under way. At around 9pm and with all other patients transferred, Mr Thorpe was the sole patient left in the 24-bed unit.

Two nurses, who Mr Thorpe, the chairman of Tenterden Chamber of Commerce, said should have gone off shift at 10pm had to remain with him on the ward.

“One nurse told me that she had already worked 15 hours continuously and was over her permitted working hours.

“The nurses were trying to do the best they could for me but their calls to bed managers became increasing desperate,” said Mr Thorpe.

“I was not affected by the pleading telephone calls to try to find a bed for over seven hours, [but] other more vulnerable patients could have been severely affected and intimidated by the situation.”

Terry Thorpe endured a 10-hour wait for a bed in a ward following his operation at the William Harvey

Terry Thorpe endured a 10-hour wait for a bed in a ward following his operation at the William Harvey

The owner of Cranbrook-based garage D G East added: “All the lighting and heating had to be left on in the ward just for me, the situation was ridiculous.”

At just after midnight, Mr Thorpe was transferred out to the ward, but he found himself in yet another recovery area outside a main operating theatre, where he remained for a further two hours, before a bed was finally found for him in Rotary Ward just after 2am – a total of 10 hours after his operation finished at 4pm.

“I was just shuffled around and it was like musical beds,” said Mr Thorpe.

“It was crisis conditions and I felt that if an inspector had been visiting and saw what was going on, the hospital would have been closed down.”

Mr Thorpe has nothing but praise for the staff on the ground who he described as courteous and dedicated.

“They were obviously working under extreme pressure and with very little support from higher authority.”

“If there had been a major road accident, or Channel Tunnel incident I don’t think the hospital could have coped.”

The William Harvey Hospital

The William Harvey Hospital

East Kent Hospitals Chief Nurse and Director of Quality, Sally Smith, said: “We’re sorry to hear that Mr Thorpe is unhappy with his experience at the William Harvey.

“Being transferred from the operating theatre to a recovery room would be standard practice, as would the subsequent transfer of a patient to a short-stay unit.

“But in Mr Thorpe’s case, his anticipated 24-hour stay was extended while a suitable bed was found for him.

“Demand on our hospital services is at unprecedented levels which is why the NHS and social care in Kent and Medway has published its vision for transforming health and social care over the next five years.

“As part of this work we have begun talking to the public about new ways of providing healthcare. We need local people to help us to get this right and we’re working towards a public consultation, which we expect will start in the summer.

“In the meantime we’re working hard to improve to reduce delays in our hospitals.”

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