A former nurse has spoken out after her mother was left in an A&E corridor for nearly 24 hours with “many, many” others.
Susan Linnell says patients soiled themselves, were left without drinks and were crying out for help at Medway Maritime.
She felt there weren’t enough staff at the Gillingham hospital to deal with the numbers requiring assistance.
A video sent to KentOnline, taken a few days later, shows around 20 people lying in beds in the same corridor.
But 67-year-old Susan doesn’t blame medics or management – saying they’re trying their best and are “on their knees”.
Her mum Eileen was taken to A&E by ambulance around 10pm on Thursday, November 2 after falling at her home in Chatham.
Susan said: “They’d done a lot of checks on her and we asked if she really needed to go and they said ‘she could die if she doesn’t’.”
The 92-year-old was struggling to breathe as she has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and was suffering from a chest infection.
Susan added: “We went to A&E then she was put in the majors [major emergencies] ward and she stayed there all night on a trolley in the cubicle.”
She left her on Friday afternoon only to return to the hospital later to find her mum no longer there.
“I said ‘Where’s mum gone?’ and they said ‘through here’ so they took me through and she was in the corridor along with many, many other people.”
Eileen had been removed from her place in the majors ward as a prison inmate had been placed in her cubicle for treatment.
The NHS treats everybody equally, according to their medical needs at the time.
According to Susan, who used to work as a mental health nurse, there were about 30 people on trolleys in the corridors waiting for a bed to become available.
KentOnline was also contacted by an unrelated person who’d been there at the same time and said the unit had been under incredible pressure.
So much so, his 62-year-old wife – who had also suffered a fall – had taken to lying on the floor while waiting to be assessed. After 12 hours, she returned home without treatment.
Susan added: “There were people calling out for the toilet, people calling out for drinks and they were just lying there – I’ve never seen anything like it.”
According to her, staff had to tell patients to relieve themselves where they were as there were not enough of them to take people to the toilet.
“I went back in the next morning and as I walked in, it smelt of urine, it smelt of faeces,” she added.
“The staff were on their knees and someone needs to speak out about this.”
She says she had a chat with a manager who reportedly said there were wider issues the hospital has to deal with.
“They said they’re building so many new houses and flats that it [the hospital] is over capacity – which I agree. I’ve got to say something to someone because it’s got to stop.
“I feel sorry for the staff and I’m doing this for them. I’m talking out for them because they’re not allowed to talk out and they would be in trouble or lose their job.”
Susan’s mum was eventually seen on Saturday afternoon and discharged on Sunday, having waited for assistance for nearly 36 hours.
It was reported on Thursday that NHS waiting lists in England have hit a record high with 7.77 million awaiting treatment.
KentOnline spoke to the Medway NHS Foundation Trust about Susan’s concerns and the fact patients were spending so much time in corridors.
To understand the context behind the problems, we asked whether it had been inundated with more patients than usual and whether there was a wider problem processing people through the hospital.
We also inquired whether there’d been a staff shortfall and what the average A&E waiting time had been for the Monday to Sunday.
The trust declined to answer these questions, but did respond to Susan’s concerns.
Chief executive Jayne Black said: "We apologise for the long wait experienced by Ms Linnell during her recent visit to our hospital, and we are investigating all the concerns raised.
“We are committed to providing high-quality care for all patients and continually monitor this to ensure the treatment we provide is safe, effective and as timely as possible.’’
The trust added that as one of the largest hospitals in the south east, its emergency department can get extremely busy at times, particularly as it approaches winter and during the colder months.
This means some patients may wait longer than it would like for treatment or to be admitted to a ward and the trust is very sorry for the impact this has on them and their families.
Staff are said to be working tirelessly to reduce waiting times and to safely care for patients when the hospital is under pressure.
A spokesman said: “The latest published NHS England data (for September 2023) shows we were one of just 16 out of 119 hospital trusts in England that met the national A&E target of seeing 76% of patients within four hours.”