Pensioner forced to wait 12 HOURS to see a Wigan A&E doctor

Ernest and Phyllis Erlam, both 88, and daughter Janet
Ernest and Phyllis Erlam, both 88, and daughter Janet

An investigation is under way after an elderly man waited more than 12 hours to see a doctor in Wigan’s A&E department.

Ernest Erlam, 88, was rushed to Wigan Infirmary by ambulance after falling and losing consciousness.

He has a very rare peripheral neuropathy, which means his feet are numb and he is persistently falling.

Mr Erlam, from Poolstock, arrived at casualty at lunchtime on Saturday, November 16 - but he was not seen by a doctor until early the following day.

His family has now made an official complaint to the trust, outraged by the lengthy wait he faced in the under-pressure A&E unit.

His daughter Janet Erlam, who is a full-time carer for her parents, rushed back from a trip to Scotland after her mother Phyllis called to say her father had been taken to hospital. She said: “When they got to A&E mum said there were trollies everywhere.

The trollies were queueing to get through the A&E doors but then when they got in, they had to go up another passage and go back before being triaged.”

Ms Erlam, 61, says her mother struggled to get information about what was happening to her father from hospital staff.

Paramedics gave her a blanket because she was cold and booked a taxi when she decided to go home at teatime - though a second taxi had to be sent when the first one could not find her on the busy hospital site. Mrs Erlam and her daughter later tried to call A&E for an update on Mr Erlam, but say they had to wait a long time before anyone answered.

They were then given different information - Mrs Erlam was asked to call back in two hours while Ms Erlam was told her father had been admitted.

Ms Erlam rang again at 9pm and was informed her father was waiting to see the medical team. They said they would ring if he was being sent home, unless it was in the early hours.

She phoned the next morning and went to the hospital after being told her father was still in A&E.

Ms Erlam, who lives in Worsley Mesnes, said: “He told me he had been in that bed all night and was freezing. He had to ask for a blanket to keep him warm. He said that two lots of doctors had been at 1am and 2am to see him.”

She said he had not eaten, had not been given a drink until 11pm and requests for a bottle to empty his catheter valve had been ignored.

He eventually received cereal at 8.30am and was told there was no toast, but someone did bring him one slice an hour later.

Ms Erlam says she struggled to get information from a staff member, but had been told there were no beds.

She decided to take her elderly father home on Sunday lunchtime, as she did not want to leave him in A&E.

A complaint has now been sent to Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital.

Ms Erlam described the situation in A&E as “disgusting” and said there were not enough staff to cope with demand.

She said: “I think the staff are in no better position than we are in. I think they are crumbling under the pressure. I think morale is low and they look defeated.”

Ms Erlam decided to share her family’s story after reading that the performance of the trust had declined, with 86.1 per cent of patients seen within four hours last month, though that was above the national average of 83.6 per cent.

Some 624 patients had to wait more than four hours to be admitted, after the decision to admit was made, while two waited for more than 12 hours.

A trust spokesman said: “We welcome feedback on our care, whether this be in the form of praise or things we can improve on. When a complaint is made these are always reviewed by our patient relations team who monitor the progress of any investigation. Any findings from the investigations are shared with the person raising the concerns as and when appropriate.

“When a complaint is active, the trust is unable to comment on any individual case.

“WWL takes all complaints seriously and whilst long trolley waits are rare, we recognise it is understandably distressing for a patient and relative when they happen and urgent actions are taken to resolve as quickly as possible and the best possible care is maintained during this waiting time.

“Incidents such as this are always brought to the attention of the trust board and are investigated to ensure we take all possible steps to improve care for our patients.

“We are extremely sorry that on such occasions a patient experiences a long delay. Every effort is made to reduce any delays and ensure our patients are safe, well cared for and receiving the treatment they need.

“We are seeing unprecedented demand in our A&E department and we are working hard with our partners across the health and social care economy to ensure that patients are in the right place at the right time. We would also encourage the public to choose well and seek alternatives to A&E as appropriate such as self-care, NHS111, pharmacies, GPs, walk-in centre.”