Wycombe Hospital: No room at the inn for a cardiac patient!

Steve Baker outside Wycombe Hospital

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Yesterday in health questions, I highlighted the shocking case of Mrs Evans-Woodward, a resident of the Aylesbury constituency:

Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con):Aylesbury constituent Mrs Evans-Woodward is a young woman who has had five heart attacks. One evening her husband drove her to Wycombe’s heart attack unit with a racing pulse, but she was turned away to the minor injuries unit, which again turned her away to the accident and emergency unit in Stoke Mandeville, before suggesting that she sit outside and call an ambulance, which she duly did—all of this with a racing pulse of 180. This is not good enough. It is an appalling prioritisation of bureaucracy over simple human care and compassion. Does it not show that the NHS needs to become much more accountable to patients?

Dr Poulter: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I am very sorry to hear of the case he outlined. Clearly the care that his constituent received was more than substandard. If a patient needs immediate treatment, they should always receive it. This Government are quite rightly ensuring that we embed good care in everything we do. We have beefed up the role of the Care Quality Commission to improve the inspection of care quality throughout the NHS and the care sector. We are also introducing a friends and family test to pick up on examples of bad care, so that the NHS can properly learn from them locally and so that these things do not happen.

Although a young mum, Mrs Evans-Woodward has a history of heart attacks. When she came over with palpitations, her husband knew her life might depend on getting her to Wycombe’s cardiac unit as quickly as possible. Ambulances had repeated difficulty in finding their remote home in the past and as it was dark, he made the decision to drive her to hospital himself. When they arrived, Mrs Evans-Woodward and her husband were naturally frightened but believed that she was now going to be safe.

Unhappily, they say the cardiac unit and the GP-led Minor Injuries Unit both turned them away, ultimately suggesting they call an ambulance from outside the hospital, as only an ambulance crew could refer someone for admission. It seems that although Mrs Evans-Woodward’s pulse was 180, she was forced to walk out and call an ambulance from the car park. Mercifully, the paramedics arrived in only 7 minutes and did their duty by walking her in.

It is surely unacceptable to betray not just the principle that the NHS cares for its patients but the norms of ordinary decent humanity. Even a lapsed first-aider like me would at least shelter a patient, call an ambulance, monitor and reassure.

I understand the neatness of emergency patients arriving by ambulance but there is no excuse whatever for not swiftly enabling proper care to a person who is in immediate fear for their life. Sending people out into the cold doesn’t cut the mustard. Wycombe has the county’s primary cardiac unit. Mr & Mrs Evans-Woodward had come to the right place but it appears there was no way to let them in without calling an ambulance. If this is the actual procedure rather than a mistake, them the rules are clearly wrong.

I have repeatedly argued that what people need from 24/7 urgent care is this: a door through which we can walk, after which our problems will be taken care of, one way or another. We might be treated immediately. We might be admitted to hospital locally. We might be reassured and referred to the right provision elsewhere. Or an ambulance might be called and we might be reassured while waiting for it to take us to another specialist unit. Whichever the pathway taken, people should feel that someone is helping them and things are about to get better. Without this, triage and admitance procedures short of full A & E will always be a source of dissatisfaction and controversy.

I am having a question asked about this at today’s Healthcare Trust board meeting at Wycombe Hospital. I look forward to hearing how such an apparently grotesque failure to care will never happen again and how the 24/7 facility can be designed to ensure everyone who arrives is treated properly.

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Comments & Responses

2 Responses so far.

  1. Alvin Evans-Woodward says:

    I hope that the hospital take on board mine and your concerns. Becky and i feel that it needs to be clarified as someone will die if nothing is done, and becky does not want to be that person. I thank you for the support you have given us in bringing this matter to the attention of all persons. I wait with baited breath for a speedy outcome and report from the hospital.

  2. Anne Eden, Chief Executive at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust says:

    Dear Steve

    In your blog, you have expressed your views that the NHS needs to become more accountable to patients. I would like to reassure you that we take our responsibilities very seriously are more than happy to be held to account by our patients when things go wrong.

    Whilst we cannot go into the details of any patient complaint, we offer our sincere apologies to Mrs Evans-Woodward and her family. We have already been in contact to discuss the issues and are conducting an internal investigation.

    We are looking forward to welcoming you to Wycombe Hospital tomorrow to look around the new state of the art Minor Injuries and Illness Unit and also our cardiac and stroke services.

    We are very proud of our dedicated specialist cardiac and stroke unit, which offers local people care and treatment of the highest standard as we are able to bring together the specialist skills and expertise of highly qualified doctors and nurses. We continue to develop these services further, including the new Cardiac and Stroke Receiving Unit (CSRU) which opened on 14 November.

    In the first 13 days of the unit being open, we saw 157 patients. Of these patients, 56 were able to go home following assessment and of these 56, half avoided unnecessary admissions. We have also had extremely positive feedback from patients who have used the unit.

    We always welcome feedback from our patients to ensure we continue to provide high quality care and services.