Wednesday 31 December 2008

Happy New Year.

Can't say as I'm surprised by this:

DAD-of-two Stewart Fleming grips his head in pain as he waits to be seen in A&E — but he died after being ignored for SIX hours.

Clearly suffering, Stewart was clutching a note from his doctor saying he must be seen IMMEDIATELY.

But the railway signalman, 37, was left to die as a deadly virus ravaged his body and one by one his organs collapsed.

He was not admitted until six hours after arriving at the Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham, Kent, by which time it was too late.


Heartbroken Sarah, from Rainham, Kent, added: "There are so many questions. Why wait three hours for triage when his doctor had already done it and put it in writing?

"We should not have had to queue. He should have been dealt with immediately. I was with Stewart when the GP called the hospital.

"He typed us a letter and told us to go to A&E and hand this letter over. He said Stewart would be given a bed and treated immediately.

"But when we got to A&E it was full to bursting. I walked to the front with the letter and told them what the GP had said but I was just told to go to the back of the queue. ... I was told we had to go through the normal process, even with the letter from the doctor. We got to A&E before 5.30pm. He was finally called through to be examined at 11pm. ..."

Been there, done that — though thankfully without the death. It used to be the case that GPs could write letters to hospitals telling them to admit a patient. This appears to be one of those things that has been quietly got rid of in the name of reform. But no-one seems to have told the doctors, which is why they're still writing the letters. The last time this happened to us, we learnt our lesson: if there's anything wrong with you, don't go see your doctor, as that's just time wasted. Get straight to A&E and into the queue.

I might add that six hours is pretty quick these days. Vic once waited twelve.

Anyway, firstly, I'd like to say that, even by modern bureaucratic standards, this statement is a lesson in crass callous nastiness:

A spokesman for the Medway NHS Foundation Trust said it was "saddened to hear of the death of Stewart Fleming".

The spokesman added: "Mr Fleming came to Medway Maritime Hospital's Emergency Department on a day when it was experiencing long waits due to a high number of admissions.

"The situation was not unique to Medway — hospitals across the country were all experiencing a rise in demand for their services at the time."


Secondly, this is being reported all over the place, of course, and every report I've seen mentions the six-hour wait, what with it being the whole point of the story. Except the BBC's:

An inquiry is under way into the death of a man after a two-hour delay in him being seen by an A&E unit in Kent.

I'll print the rest, what with the BBC's well-established reputation for stealthily editing their reports after criticism without changing the "Page last updated" bit — for lying, in other words.

The Medway NHS Foundation Trust said it was saddened by the death of Stewart Fleming, 37, of Rainham, who attended with a suspected viral infection.

It said he attended the Medway Maritime Hospital on 15 December at 1816 GMT and was seen by a triage nurse at 2020 GMT.

It said the unit had been experiencing long waits due to the high numbers of admissions.

Mr Fleming's family has expressed concern at the way in which his case was handled, saying he had a note from his GP requesting immediate admission.

The trust said it was currently investigating the case internally and it urged the Fleming family to make contact so discussions with them could take place.

In a statement, the trust added: "The situation was not unique to Medway — hospitals across the country were all experiencing a rise in demand for their services at this time."

There are two explanations for the BBC's reporting a six-hour wait as a two-hour delay. First, there are the times given in their report: they could be measuring the time from arrival to triage and ignoring the four-hour wait after triage. Or they could be looking at the official N"HS" target for A&E waiting times, which I think is four hours (though I admit I haven't checked it recently) and implicitly accepting the Government's line that that is acceptable: so a six-hour wait is only a two-hour delay, because a four-hour wait wouldn't be a delay at all. But, when I say there are two explanations, I really mean that there are two excuses the BBC can offer if they get questioned over it. There's only one explanation for their fundamental dishonesty: they see part of their mission as being to promote the NHS.

Even when it kills people.

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