Pensioner in agony spent five days in Wigan Infirmary with no treatment and only food at the end

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The family of a Wigan 80-year-old have blasted the “chronic state of the NHS” after a five-day ambulance, A&E and ward ordeal at the end of which he was sent home untreated and having not eaten for almost his entire stay.

The man, who does not want to be identified so we are giving him the alias Tom, now faces another three-week wait before he can get the treatment he needs for severe stomach and side pains at another hospital.

Relatives say they have nothing but praise for the individual health service workers, but have highlighted Tom’s plight to give a “terrifying snapshot” of what is happening in Wigan and the rest of Britain – even before things get worse during the winter peak.

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Members of clinical staff work at computers in the Accident and Emergency department of Wigan InfirmaryMembers of clinical staff work at computers in the Accident and Emergency department of Wigan Infirmary
Members of clinical staff work at computers in the Accident and Emergency department of Wigan Infirmary

It was on the afternoon of Thursday October 27 that Tom took ill at home in Standish and one of his daughters rang the NHS 111 number.

She was told “say nothing to the patient but it might be a heart attack. He needs to go to hospital now!”

She rang 999 and was told that he would be treated as a Category 2 patient (1 being critical illness, 5 being the lowest emergency priority) and that it would “not be long” before an ambulance arrived.

But it was nearly three hours before the emergency vehicle got there. On assessment, a paramedic said it was more likely a liver than a heart problem and they took him to Wigan Infirmary.

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Joan faced hours of waiting in Wigan A&EJoan faced hours of waiting in Wigan A&E
Joan faced hours of waiting in Wigan A&E

It was then one and a half to two hours before a nurse triaged Tom and told him he needed to see a doctor.

One finally examined him a further 10 hours later, recommending he had a CT scan and suggesting he might have gall stones or a water infection.

The scan done, Tom then returned to A&E for another six hours until he was told he was being moved into a bed on the medical assessment unit. By now 21 hours had elapsed since his arrival.

He waited in the MAU until Saturday morning and was then transferred to another ward, all the while being told that he wasn’t to eat anything in case he needed an operation.

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Ambulances outside Wigan InfirmaryAmbulances outside Wigan Infirmary
Ambulances outside Wigan Infirmary

Another daughter, “Julia”, takes up the story: “A surgeon finally came to see him on the Saturday morning and said it was probably his liver and it was not something that could be treated at Wigan.

"He was told he would be sent home if he could hold down food, but he couldn’t manage that on the Saturday. On the Sunday he ate some soup and he was sent home, being told to manage the pain as best he could and book at appointment at Manchester Royal which would probably take up to three weeks.

"And so my dad was taken home, having had no treatment at all between Thursday and Sunday and having eaten almost nothing since having a slice of toast on the Wednesday morning before he left for hospital.

"He was getting increasingly weak as the hours and days went by and you could see people all around you in similar states of pain and distress. He got home malnourished, exhausted and with no treatment.

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"I stayed with my father during his long wait in A&E and every person I spoke to – patient or healthcare worker – complained of the same things.

"The staff there are broken; one nurse admitted to me that no-one wants to be there anymore.

"We have nothing but praise and admiration for the staff throughout every stage of this story. They are overworked, underpaid and doing their best in an impossible situation.

"The waiting times are ridiculous and I can only imagine that they will get much worse when we get into the winter months which are traditionally the peak period for hospitals.

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"It's about bottlenecks and bed-blocking. There aren't the beds to move people out of A&E into and there are people waiting for hours on end in unsuitable conditions and a nurse told us this was now the norm. The NHS is in a chronic state.”

Julia said her dad is still in pain, trying to combat it with codeine, and is now struggling to eat too.

Mary Fleming, deputy chief executive of Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) said: “Like most NHS organisations across the country, WWL is experiencing consistent pressure on our urgent and emergency care system, which has meant that patients are experiencing longer waits in our Emergency Department.

“Our staff are working incredibly hard to provide care and treatment to patients as quickly as possible, particularly those with life-threatening conditions and I would like to thank them, and the public of Wigan for their continued support.

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“WWL continues to work with our partners across the Healthier Wigan Partnership as part of a borough-wide health system approach to improve patient flow and discharge from our hospitals.

“We would continue to ask the public of Wigan to please use our NHS services appropriately, contacting NHS 111 in the first instance, both online and on the phone, to ensure you are directed to the most appropriate service for your needs and to please only attend our Emergency Department with genuine emergencies or life-threatening illnesses.”

A North West Ambulance Service spokesperson said, "We are sorry about the length of time it took to reach the patient you are referring to.

"Of course, this is not what we want for our patients.

"We are all working very hard to ensure everyone who needs an ambulance gets one. However, the NHS remains under extreme pressure, and while patients suffering from life-threatening conditions will receive the next available ambulance, some patients are waiting longer than we would like.

"We wish him a full and swift recovery and invite him or his family to contact our patient safety team if they would like us to look into the incident more closely."

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