Worrying pictures show how an exhausted patient resorted to sleeping on the floor in A&E amid soaring demand at a Kent hospital.
Steven Wells, 31, was taken to the William Harvey in Ashford via ambulance at about 1am on Monday morning after throwing up blood at his home in Faversham.
But the forklift driver had to wait without access to a bed for just under two days – finally being placed on a ward at 10pm on Tuesday night.
His partner Natasha Bye, 29, told KentOnline: “I know they’re overrun but that’s no excuse to leave people lying on the floor for nearly two days.”
Mr Wells’s experience comes at a time when many others are spending hours waiting to be seen at sites run by the East Kent Hospitals Trust (EKHT), which also includes the QEQM in Margate.
In October 2023, there were 1,079 patients who waited 12+ hours from decision to admission (DTA). These are known as 'trolley waits'.
The figure is close to matching the 1,190 trolley waits seen at the peak of last year’s winter crisis when Kent’s A&Es faced record demand.
Hospital bosses told KentOnline this week that emergency departments “continue to experience high levels of demand” and apologised for the long waits patients are facing.
Ms Bye says when they first arrived at the William Harvey they were told that her partner had suspected internal bleeding and to expect a two-hour wait.
But it wasn’t until 45 hours later - after sleeping on the floor of A&E surrounded by other patients - that Mr Wells finally had a bed of his own.
“I think the care here is atrocious,” said Ms Bye.
“Suspected internal bleeding is quite serious and the amount of blood that my partner threw up was really bad.
“It’s been so distressing to see him not get the care he needs. It’s been so disappointing and frustrating.
“I asked about beds and they snapped back just saying ‘stop asking about beds, when there’s one we’ll sort it’, which isn’t really helpful when you’re worrying about a loved one.”
Ms Bye says staff had carried out blood tests every four to five hours as well as doing a chest x-ray while Mr Wells lay on the floor exhausted in between being seen.
As a disabled woman, Ms Bye relies on her partner as a part-time carer as well as to provide income for their household – both of which he is currently unable to do.
The question of moving Mr Wells to a different hospital was raised but his partner claims staff dismissed that idea.
Another who has experienced delays at the William Harvey is 19-year-old Lily Mansfield.
She made her way to A&E with her mother Katie on Monday morning on the advice of her GP following a seizure.
The Willesborough-based duo were left waiting for a bed for more than 48 hours – with Lily, who also has Tourettes, only being given a bed on Wednesday morning after having multiple seizures in the hospital.
Her mum told KentOnline: “You’re bouncing around from department to department, moving constantly around.
“It felt like they just weren’t interested. It’s disgusting up here and it’s not just us experiencing this – it’s so bad.
“I’d say there’s a good four or five people who have been waiting for more than 48 hours. We feel like goldfish in a bowl.
“I feel bad for losing my cool when I have but it’s been so upsetting and I just don’t want anyone to go through what we’ve gone through.”
The pair believe the hospital was simply having to try to accommodate too many people.
Discussing fellow patients in the same situation, Ms Mansfield referred to 89-year-old Miriam Smith who was left to sit in her wheelchair for almost a full day.
Her niece Yvonne Haycock says she attempted to complain to the hospital’s Patients Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) but was rebuffed – as they required the consent of the patient to proceed.
Brought in by ambulance, the elderly Dover resident has since been given a bed – albeit in a dementia ward. Before this, she was she only offered a place in a recliner seat after a day in her wheelchair, which she declined.
Her niece told KentOnline: “They told me they can’t set up a complaint because I might not have permission for my aunt – she’s 90 in four weeks and can’t use the internet or phone very well.
“She’d been in there for 38 hours with her lungs full of fluid, on antibiotics for infection and has heart failure – she needs some sort of help.
“No bed, no comfort and no privacy whilst being sat there infected and ill – the whole experience is a disgrace.
“It felt like nobody wanted to help – there’s quite a few patients who have been there for a very long time.”
“Our staff are working incredibly hard to provide safe and timely care for patients across our hospitals...”
When asked about the cases, the hospital trust says it was unable to comment on individual instances.
Sarah Hayes, chief nurse & midwifery officer, told KentOnline: “We are very sorry that these patients have experienced extended waits for their care.
“Our staff are working incredibly hard to provide safe and timely care for patients across our hospitals.
“However, our emergency departments continue to experience high levels of demand.
“We are working with NHS and social care partners to maximise capacity both within the hospitals and in the community settings to enable patients to be discharged safely and quickly, but we cannot always admit patients as quickly as we would like to.
“To help support our teams in caring for our sickest patients, local communities can help us by only using our emergency departments when it is an emergency, and to contact NHS 111 online to find alternative services if they have less urgent concerns.”
The concerning scenes at the William Harvey come after KentOnline last week revealed how a number of patients were left crying out for help in A&E corridors at Medway Maritime Hospital.
Bosses at the Medway NHS Foundation Trust said they were meeting the national A&E target of seeing 76% of patients within four hours.