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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Hospital appointment becomes seven hour marathon

A LLANGOLLEN man has complained to Wales’s Health Minister about a gruelling ordeal which he says saw a simple outpatients’ appointment take almost seven hours due to problems with hospital transport.

Well-known local campaigner Martin Crumpton claims the experience has caused his already delicate health to deteriorate further and left him “in dread” of his next appointment later this month. 

The Welsh Ambulance Service has now begun an official investigation.

As a category C2 patient needing two people to lift himself and his wheelchair in and out of an ambulance, Mr Crumpton was collected by a two-man ambulance crew from his home at 9.45am on January 6 to be taken to his 10.30am appointment at Wrexham’s Maelor Hospital where he had treatment to diabetic foot ulcers.

As the result of a delay of over three hours in being picked by hospital transport, he didn’t arrive home until 3.30pm that day by which time he says he was heading for a diabetic hypoglycemic attack.
 
He said: “I arrived there on time and was seen within 15 minutes. The treatment ended at 11.20am and hospital transport was notified I was ready to go home immediately.

“The podiatrist saw I was still waiting and called them again at 12 noon. Their response was an apologetic one-hour delay, with my pick-up at 2pm.
 
“At 2.10pm, seeing I was still there, they called again. I was then, finally, picked up at 2.40pm by a crew who said they'd only just been assigned.

“They told me that their control had been making significant errors co-ordinating the crews throughout the day. I finally arrived home at 3.30pm.
 
“The round trip has taken six hours and 45 minutes for an out-patients' appointment lasting 40 minutes.”
 
Mr Crumpton added: “The whole time I was hunched-up in my wheelchair with pressure on my feet, specifically the thing I should not be doing.

“During my extended wait, the small amount of food all sensible diabetics carry was not adequate and I was heading for a hypo.
 
“As if that wasn't enough, as a heart failure patient on daily doses of diuretics, I needed assistance to be wheeled to a toilet which was ill-equipped to accommodate a wheelchair user due to it layout and small size.
 
“Once home, I was fed urgently, given a morphine compound and painkillers. But the pain  continued throughout the night, keeping me awake for four hours.

“I have another appointment on January 20 and I quite dread another long wait.

“The district nurse confirms that following my visit to the hospital my foot ulcers have been damaged as well as my already-damaged achilles heels.
 
“What I've learned from staff I see regularly, and often on a first-name basis, is that the Welsh Ambulance Service is severely understaffed. 

“Staff are retiring and there is no recruitment to replace them. The non-emergency ambulances are, in a few cases, quite decrepit.”

In a letter of complaint to Health Minister Mark Drakeford, he says:  “All this, Minister, is wholly down to underfunding and I'm willing to wager with you that this now-deplorable service contributes significantly to patient dissatisfaction figures.
 
“They also tell me that ambulances queue four to five deep at hospitals all over North Wales on a daily basis, and as we left the Maelor on January 6, I saw five waiting myself.” 

A Welsh Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “Our Patient Care Service (PCS) makes more than 1 million journeys every year, providing non-emergency transport to routine hospital appointments in England and Wales for 4,000 patients a day.

“As part of our ambitious modernisation and clinical transformation programme, Working Together for Success, we have made a firm commitment to provide a high quality, planned Patient Care Service which is valued by users, and have seen a number of improvements over the year, including the improved timeliness of our service.
“In 2013, we replaced 14 of our Patient Care Service vehicles in North Wales, and anticipate the delivery of further vehicles in the coming weeks. We are also in the process of recruiting more than a dozen new Patient Care Service staff in North Wales.
“We are disappointed to hear of the patient’s concern on this occasion and have contacted them directly to ensure their future transport arrangements run as smoothly as possible.

“A formal concern has been received in relation to this case, and we will be responding directly to the patient once we have looked into the matter in more detail.”

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