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Baroness complains of five hour hospital trolley wait


A senior Tory baroness has revealed she had to wait for nearly five hours on a hospital trolley before a bed was found for her.

Baroness Sharples, 88, a member of the Lords since 1973, gave her account of a stay in London’s St Thomas’ hospital as the government was questioned on its decision to scrap the four-hour target for maximum waits in accident and emergency (A&E) units.

Speaking outside the chamber, Lady Sharples said she had collapsed after “overdoing it” last month following a knee replacement operation.

“The ambulance came in five minutes but I was in hospital on a trolley from 7.45pm to 12.30am,” she said. “I was in a bay in accident and emergency waiting for them to find a bed.

“I was seen by nurses, who I can’t fault as they had to deal with all the drunks who I could hear. But I wasn’t seen by a doctor until after I had a bed.”

Lady Sharples said she did not reveal she was a member of the Lords, and was released the following day following tests.

Responding to Lady Sharples’ comments at question time on the length of her wait, health minister Earl Howe said: “That does concern me. I don’t think that anyone could endorse the practice of patients remaining on trolleys.

“I hope you were seen and attended to in a timely manner, but what you describe does not sound to me as though it conforms with good clinical practice.

“The figures I have nationally show that hospitals as a whole are adhering to the new standards that have been set.”

Answering claims from labour’s baroness McDonagh that A&E waiting times were “rising sharply”, Lord Howe said the A&E target had been replaced “by a set of clinical quality indicators, incorporating measures of timeliness in April”.

He added: “The proportion of patients waiting for less than four hours during the four weeks up to April 24 2011 was 96.7% compared to 98.3% in April 2010.

“Our clear advice from clinicians was the four-hour target should be adjusted to reflect clinical case rates and clinical priorities.”

Crossbench peer baroness Finlay of Llandaff, a former president of the Royal Society of Medicine, said: “Until the shortfall of 1,280 A&E consultants is met, the quality indicators will not be met because they require consultant sign off and that they must not be interpreted as rigid targets because of the variability of clinical scenarios.”

Lord Howe said the fact consultants had to sign off on many targets “in itself should encourage consultant capacity over time”.



Readers' comments (15)

  • Unfortunate but a reality check probably. No one wants to see patients lying on trolleys but the situation will only get worse after the cuts.

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  • A total and absolute scandal and high time something is done about this without further delays and excuses. it is totally intolerable. a hospital trolley is not comfortable at the best of times and especially for the elderly. it amounts almost to human torture and shows a total lack of respect for any individual and their rights. I am sure patients admitted as emergencies to veterinary surgeries are not subjected to such appalling treatment so why should human beings, and especially the elderly or anybody else whose condition could rapidly and seriously deteriorate as a result.

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  • Adrian Bolt

    When waiting time targets were first introduced by the last Government they were widely derided by the health professions as “distorting clinical priorities”. There was some truth in this as well as some creative accounting in the way some Trusts collected their data.

    My old trust would regularly “suggest” to patients who had been waiting 3 ½ hrs to be seen that they might like to “nip up to the canteen” and get a coffee. While they were away from the department they would be “signed out” and “signed back in” on their return thereby restarting the clock and I am sure we all heard the stories of Ambulances waiting in car parks to off load their cargo in order to avoid those patients breaching the four hour wait once they had been checked in.

    However it was not all bad. The four hour waiting limit for A&E did concentrate the minds and to some extent the energies of those working there and help to maintain the flow of patients through the department.

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  • I am sure that moribund patients greatly appreciate being sent off for a coffee break and losing their place in the queue. If they are not moribund and able to walk off for a coffee or other stronger refreshment then perhaps they should consider if they are and A or E?

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  • its all very well stating the trolley wait for this unfortunate lady was disgusting, and yesit was but at the same time another patient has to be discharged to make room for another patient to take its place, in my view patients are already ushered out of hospital to quickly which is why certain patients have repeated admissions. These are people that occupy beds in hospitals and they shouldnt be rushed around like cattle to make room for the next. healthcare is not a game of numbers and time but care given to anybody who needs help in a dignified and repectful way, and everybody should be treated equally in this manner

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  • Whilst I'm sure all hell will break loose now her ladyship has made a complaint (as opposed to just one of us commoners), has anyone (including her) stopped to look at WHY she was waiting for so long? Was there a lack of beds? (not helped of course by the fact bed numbers have increasingly been cut over the past few years?) Was there a lack of staff and just far too many patients? I mean c'mon, no one wants patients waiting on trolleys I agree, but why do people not argue about the root cause of these problems? Why are people arguing about waiting times instead of stating the obvious that there are far few staff, far few beds, and far too many patients who need both?

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  • well it seems a good thing that a VIP complains instead of taking the soft option to go private. perhaps somebody will at least listen. and i agree totally with both comments above.

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  • Welcome to the NHS Baroness Sharples; it will only get worse if this government aren't reined in soon. Of course it isn't acceptable that an elderly lady is kept waiting on a trolley for hours while drunks are seen to, but it happens all the time. The drunks should have to wait longer, not vulnerable elderly people.

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  • Policy makers, administrators and managers responsible for organising and running services in the NHS seem to be totally lacking in minimum and basic common sense. They only need to look for examples of efficiently run and successful services in the rest of western Europe to see how to treat patients and especially the elderly with dignity and respect and in a timely manner and of the effective clinical management of individuals with substance abuse related problems. In some cases the later are treated in a specialised dedicated facility apart as they can be disruptive and sometimes aggressive or violent.

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  • HOw can we find beds if wards/hospital are being closed.
    And yeah no one should be on a trolly for hours, but hey look all the cuts that are happening so it is inevitable

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