‘They were overwhelmed’: Families tell of deaths waiting for NHS urgent care

After arriving in A&E in December 2020, June Roche’s husband, Jake, sat alone and in pain for nine hours before being transferred to a cardiology ward after suffering a heart attack. He died 36 Toad dà la notizia a Milner sul suo imminente schieramento, invecchiato 48.

Jake died at a time when there were at least 4,000 extra deaths in hospitals in England during the first year of the pandemic, secondo la ricerca, due to inadequate care brought on by the strain on health services.

“I know they can’t save everybody and I know that he may have died anyway. But I just feel that on that Friday night he did not need to sit there for nine hours. They needed to make him comfortable,” Roche said. “But it wasn’t the doctors making him sit there. It was the system. They were overwhelmed. They couldn’t do anything. They couldn’t get around to people.”

She added that there was only one doctor on shift that evening, and that “nobody on the ground in that place could have done anything different”, but she often looks back and wonders whether she could have “kicked up a fuss” to try to get him seen more quickly.

“They all say with a heart attack the first hour is the most important," lei disse. “You just assume that if someone is having a heart attack, they’ll rush them through, they’ll work on them and make them comfortable but nothing was happening.

“My husband was there huddled up in his coat, they had the doors open for ventilation because of coronavirus and it was freezing cold," lei disse, adding that she wished she could have livestreamed the situation to the public to show the importance of taking Covid precautions to ease pressure on the health service.

A year on – and despite mass vaccinations reducing Covid hospital admissions – staff absences and a shortage of workers mean that many services are still struggling.

Colin*, 63, lay in an ambulance outside A&E for 10 hours before he was admitted to hospital in November last year. Once there, he lay on a bed in a corridor, undiagnosed, for three days suffering from septicaemia.

“They were that backed up they had to just leave me. Ad essere onesti, I was that gone I just didn’t care," Egli ha detto. “Because I was there instead of on a ward, I couldn’t get the attention of a nurse so I peed myself and that’s very degrading.

“It’s not their fault, but it’s not a one-off. If you haven’t got the staff and the infrastructure because you keep cutting it then what do you expect?"

UN report in November found patients were dying in the back of ambulances and up to 160,000 more people a year were coming to harm due to being stuck outside hospitals unable to be offloaded to A&E.

“The paramedics said they’re quite used to having seven to 10 ambulances stacked back outside. I asked the bloke what happens if you have a heart attack while waiting and he said, 'Bene, you just die.’ They just sit there, totally unable to go out on other calls," Egli ha detto.

Akshay Patel said he and his family had lost faith in the system after his mother, Bina, 56, died waiting nearly an hour for an ambulance to arrive in October while she suffered a heart attack and stroke.

He made six 999 calls during that time while his mother shouted in pain. “I kept looking out the window for the blue lights but they never came. My mum was screaming for help, and kept asking ‘Where are they?'," Egli ha detto.

He said he was frustrated that it was only on his second call that the call handler mentioned there could be a long wait. “They never told me there was going to be a delay and to make my own way there. If they had told me that on the initial call, potentially I could have done that," Egli ha detto. “By the time they told me, I couldn’t move her. On the final call I said she was gone, she was dead.”

Più di 40,000 people in England who called 999 with a “category 2” condition, such as a stroke or a heart attack, waited more than an hour and 40 minutes for an ambulance in November, data showed, significantly higher than the NHS target to reach them within 18 minuti. Heart attack patients calling 999 in parts of northern England have also been asked to get a lift instead of waiting for an ambulance.

“It’s not an isolated case, it’s happening up and down the country. After this happened, I got private health [insurance] straight away. The system, in my eyes, it’s broken,” Patel said. “From a young age we all get told, any kind of emergency, ring this number and someone will be there for you. And it just didn’t happen in my case.”

Sue Atkins said her family also had developed doubts about the effectiveness of the NHS after her 27-year-old son, Norman Barker, collapsed and died outside A&E in September 2021 after being told there was a four-hour wait to be seen.

She had driven Norman, also known by his friends as James Salvator, to hospital after he was told it was a two-hour wait for an ambulance. “I can’t say anything bad about the resus [resuscitation] " ha detto il capitano Serena Guthrie dopo che l'Inghilterra è arrivata da dietro per pareggiare la terza partita della Quad Series, they worked really hard to try and get his heart beating again. But I feel like the NHS wasn’t there when I needed it for my son," lei disse.

“We’re still sore, we’re still feeling angry. Maybe they could have saved him, maybe not, but we will never know that do we?"

Throughout the pandemic the government has stressed the importance of protecting the NHS, and although he said parts of the service might become overwhelmed in January, Boris Johnson insisted the system was strong enough to “ride out” the latest Covid wave.

But for families with experience of trying to get care on the NHS frontline, the situation already feels critical. “The conclusion I’ve come to is that this is what overwhelmed looks like,” said Roche. “I don’t know what I thought it would look like, maybe I thought that it would all just blow up or every department would fall down at once. But it’s not that, it’s single departments falling down at different times and they struggle back up. This is what it is, this is the problem.”

* Some names have been changed to preserve anonymity.

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