10-hour wait in brave new world of emergency hospital


MRS Hextol and I had our first experience of the much trumpeted £75m emergency hospital at Cramlington the other night - and Holby City it was not.

We were referred to Cramlington by our GP, who took the unusual step of ringing us at home at 8-15pm with blood test results for Mrs Hextol which indicated that unless she received urgent attention at the emergency hospital, serious consequences could ensure.

We were on the road within 20 minutes, but the 40 mile journey in the dark - and in the rain - on unfamiliar roads, involving several dizzying excursions round roundabouts the size of Humshaugh took an hour, before the showpiece hospital was located.

I dropped her off at the entrance, and fully expected her to have been whisked away by Charlie Fairhead and Duffy by the time I had parked the car.

But she was still in the waiting room, along with probably a dozen people including a heavily pregnant young girl, another girl who appeared to have broken her arm, a woman holding a blood-stained paper towel to her head, and a man who feared he had a brain tumour after suffering a major dizzy spell.

All appeared to have been there some time, but there seemed to be no particular urgency in dealing with any of them.

We gave our details to the girl in reception, indicating that we had been sent by our concerned GP rather than just coming in off the street, and were told that we would be dealt with as soon as possible.

It was by now 10pm, but there was little movement from the waiting room chairs, where people quietly bled and dozed - awaiting the call from staff that didn’t seem to come very frequently

A lot of police officers came and went, studiously ignoring each other, but the halt and the lame waited stoically until a grinning youth handcuffed to two people in uniform was brought in, and ushered through the doors to the inner sanctum, which caused some mild stirrings of discontent,

It was not until 1am, some three and a half hours after arrival, that Mrs Hextol’s name was called, by which time we had been joined by a youth with blood gushing from several head wounds, a couple of babies and some teenage girls who appeared to have fallen off their vertiginous high heels.

The nurse who dealt with my wife was extremely pleasant and efficient, taking more blood and inserting a cannula for a possible intravenous antibiotic drip. We were returned to a different waiting area with the assurance we would soon be seen by a doctor, but distant piercing screams and urgent announcements of “doctor to resus” over the tannoy made it clear it was going to be some time before we got to the head of the queue.

The girl with the broken arm got fed up of waiting for an X-ray around 5am, and went home, though still clearly distressed when the nurse told my wife it would be a couple of hours before she would be seen - providing there were no more emergencies.

It was around 7-15am - over 10 hours since we had left home - that an affable doctor called Mrs Hextol’s name and we were taken to a cubicle. He thanked us profusely for our patience, and said that other patients had been abusive after waiting only four hours.

He said: "We have had 120 admissions tonight, 25 of which were genuine life or death situations, and we only have four doctors on duty, You can do the maths yourself - there are not enough qualified people here tonight to do the work which is required. People are hurt and frightened, and it is understandable that they get annoyed and frustrated when they or their loved ones are in pain.”

He listened to Mrs Hextol’s chest and said we could go home, as the antibiotics she was taking orally appeared to have reduced the infection slightly.

It was 8-30am when we got back home, wondering what could have happened if the oral antibiotics had not worked. We could not fault the service we received - the problem was the time it took as we waited in tortured limbo, along with the others whose gaping cuts and broken limbs, were clearly not urgent enough for the brave new world of Cramlington.

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