Published: 00:01, 20 February 2017
A man with a perforated bowel and in need of urgent surgery was left in a wheelchair in A&E for more than five hours.
Eddie Thomas, 50, first arrived at hospital at around 11pm but waited 14 hours and was sent to two different hospitals before he finally went under the knife – which ultimately saved his life.
His horrifying experience, for which he blames a lack of triage and minimal communication between the different health agencies, has prompted him and his partner, David Carr, to make a formal complaint, which they may now take to the Ombudsman.
The couple’s saga began at home in Lower Road, Faversham, when they called 111 for advice after Eddie, who has lupus, was suffering with intense pain in his stomach and had started to be sick.
They only received a call back two and a half hours later at 7.30pm, and were given an out-of-hours doctor’s appointment at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital at 10.40pm.
Driving instructor Eddie said: “By the time we got to hospital, it was all very hazy as I was in a lot of pain.
“I saw the GP who believed it was a possible appendicitis and said we needed to go to the William Harvey, but their printer wasn’t working so they couldn’t give us the necessary document to take there.
“He hand-wrote it and ordered us an ambulance.”
David adds: “We waited around 40 minutes, and there was still no sign of the ambulance and Ed’s condition was getting worse.
“I was still waiting at the entrance for the ambulance when the GP walked past me and told me that he was going home.
“When we arrived at the A&E at the William Harvey, the ambulance staff wheeled Ed into the waiting room and left.
“I am not sure what happened to the piece of paper that the GP had scrawled and I thought mistakenly that the GP had contacted the hospital to tell them of Ed’s background, circumstances and his state being very poorly at this point. But no.”
"I was in shock afterwards. It could have killed me and I needed a major procedure and I don’t know what would have happened if I had been left much longer" - Eddie Thomas
Eddie was dumped in the waiting room, and said that nobody came to his aid, offered him painkillers or even asked whether he was okay.
He said that people walking in with visible injuries were prioritised, and even a number of drunk people were seen before him.
He said: “It was like they had decided I was no longer important. There was no triage.
“Nobody spoke to us and it got to a point where we started to think there was nothing wrong with me.
“They kept pushing us to the back of the queue.”
Eddie sat in a wheelchair in A&E for five hours.
When he was finally seen by a doctor and scanned, after waiting even longer for a bed, they decided something was seriously wrong, and Eddie needed an operation as soon as possible.
David said: “He was taken into surgery at 1pm, and in the late afternoon I was phoned by the surgeon who informed me that it had not been appendicitis or a burst appendix, but Edward’s large bowel had perforated and he had had major surgery, a blood transfusion and was in an intensive unit.”
The couple say they couldn’t fault the staff, who were sympathetic and caring, but they blame the ‘negligible’ system.
Eddie said: “I was in shock afterwards. It could have killed me and I needed a major procedure and I don’t know what would have happened if I had been left much longer.
“The communication between the GP at Kent and Canterbury and the William Harvey was simply nonexistent.
“There was no joined-up thinking. You want to trust the system and the hospitals that you will be looked after.
“I’d quite happily go back to hospital again, but I would speak up for myself and not be pushed to the back of the queue. I am worried about the people who cannot speak up for themselves. How long would they wait?
“The system is not working because the government is not putting any money into it. The system is broken and something must be done to fix it.”
East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust chief nurse and director of quality, Sally Smith, said: “We’re very sorry that this patient has not had a good experience of our care.
“Our emergency department staff are working very hard to minimise delays for patients, which are being experienced across the whole country, as pressure on services is particularly intense.
“The care and wellbeing of our patients is our priority and we set high standards to make sure patients receive appropriate treatment as quickly as possible.
“I am very sorry that we have fallen short of these standards. We have received a complaint which we are progressing and we are in touch with the patient.”