The founder of Derian House Children’s Hospice has admitted she was “shocked” by the state of the NHS after she was left on a trolley in an A&E corridor for more than seven hours with a suspected heart attack.
Former nurse Margaret Vinten MBE claims she was not seen by an doctor for 11 hours at the Royal Preston Hospital because the department was struggling to cope with a flood of patients arriving by ambulance.
“I felt really sorry for the staff – they were excellent,” she said.
“But the system clearly isn’t working. The NHS seems to be rocking.”
Miss Vinten, who launched Derian House 26 years ago, spent 50 years as a nurse and also owned a nursing home chain in Lancashire.
But after her blue light visit to casualty she confessed: “I have never seen anything like it in my life.
“This was a Wednesday night, not a weekend. I know someone whose mother was there the night after and she said it was just as bad.
“When we arrived there were ambulances lined up at the door.
“It looked like there were dozens to me.
“I was wheeled in on a stretcher and joined the back of a queue of trolleys in a corridor. I couldn’t believe how long it took to finally be seen.”
Miss Vinten called 111 after developing strong chest pains.
The call handler summoned an ambulance and paramedics were at her home in Penwortham within minutes.
“I couldn’t fault the service, everyone was excellent,” she said.
“They whisked me off. But when we got to hospital everything slowed right down.
“The paramedics stayed with me for about three hours before they were able to leave. That meant they were off the road for all that time.
“I got to A&E at around a quarter to nine and I was still in the corridor at about half past four the next morning before they moved me into a cubicle.
“A doctor sent me for an X-ray at about eight o’clock. And I didn’t get a full assessment of my condition until five o’clock that afternoon.
“They said it wasn’t a heart attack, but it could have been a TIA, a mini-stroke.
“I’m not going to criticise the staff – the call-handler, paramedics, nurses and doctors – they were all brilliant. But the system just isn’t working.
“I’d love to talk to somebody about why that is and how the service is going to cope in the future.”
Miss Vinten has been a formidable campaigner for improving health services in Lancashire for more than a quarter of a century.
So when she witnessed the A&E log jam at the Royal Preston Hospital for herself as a stretcher patient she felt something had to be said to highlight such an acute situation.
“I’m not criticising the staff there, absolutely not,” she said.
“They work their socks off and are excellent in the work they do. But the system is at fault.”
Lancashire Teaching Hospitals was unable to provide a comment.
Ambulances cannot be sent out to another job
The Lancashire Post has repeatedly highlighted the issue of ambulances having to queue outside A&E at Royal Preston Hospital.
Paramedics have to stay with their patients until they can hand them over to A&E staff, so if the unit is particularly busy there can be a long wait for the ambulances to hand over.
This means that the ambulance then cannot be sent to another job, having a severe knock-on effect on response times for North West Ambulance Service.
If the ambulance has to wait for more than an hour outside the hospital, the incident counts as a Severe Handover breach.
The number of breaches soared in 2016 when Chorley’s A&E unit closed, and at one point RPH was recording five severe handover breaches a day.
The situation has latterly improved, but during Miss Vinten’s visit the ambulance crew taking care of her were delayed by three hours.
In December 2018, Royal Preston Hospital opened its rapid assessment unit, which it hoped would ease winter pressures.
The £1.9m project included some structural changes to the A&E unit, which had been small and cramped, meaning that patients often had to wait in corridors.
An area previously used for offices was gutted to generate space for a new seven-bay unit where the less serious ambulance arrivals can be assessed. After assessment by a clinician, the patient can be sent to the emergency department itself, a ward or an area known as ambulatory care, which deals with any condition where it is expected that the patient should be able to return home the same day.
Celebrating 25 years of Derian House
Only last year Miss Vinten was celebrating the 25th anniversary of Derian House, a fund-raising project which began back in 1991 and led to its opening in 1993.
The idea was thought up by the Haydock family from Leyland whose son Derek died as a teenager after a long illness. But it was Miss Vinten who turned their dream into reality, recruiting friends, benefactors, celebrities, companies and
organisations to help raise the funds.
It was opened by the Duchess of Norfolk in October 1993 and, while Miss Vinten stepped down as chairman of the trustees in 2011, she still has an active role and is the lifetime president.
She was awarded the MBE for her services to Derian House in 2012.