dr Alison Durkin, suffering from chest pains, waited for hours outside her local hospital
A critically ill retired GP who was forced to wait outside her local hospital in the back of an ambulance was “life saved” by her family, who instead drove her 300 miles to one in London.
dr Alison Durkin, 61, woke up with chest pains and called 999 – but waited hours outside the Royal Cornwall Hospital.
The hospital has declared an internal “critical incident” due to “acute pressure” on beds – patients had to wait outside in queues of over 30 ambulances.
Eventually she was released, but her chest pains were worse the next day.
“I was really worried Alison wouldn’t make it”
Alison and husband Ross Durkin, 63, did a frantic search and found huge queues outside all of the South West’s major hospitals.
They decided to drive 300 miles to a hospital in London hoping to be seen sooner.
On Thursday (July 14) Alison, who has suffered from long-term heart problems for many years, was admitted to Charing Cross Hospital.
There was an ambulance outside, not the 33 they saw in Cornwall – and she was seen in ten minutes and remains in serious condition.
Ross, from Helston, Cornwall, said: “After waiting for hours on Monday, Alison couldn’t take it anymore so we decided to head to London.
“I was really worried Alison wasn’t going to make it. I thought it would be our last day together.
“When we arrived at Charing Cross and saw just one ambulance outside the emergency department compared to the 33 outside the hospital in Cornwall, my heart swelled.
“Alison was seen within ten minutes of her arrival. That’s how it should be.
“We were fortunate to have had the time and resources to make the journey to London, but not everyone can do that.
“I’m not sure if she would still be here, to be honest it’s not easy to say.”
Alison spent the afternoon and evening in the back of the ambulance
Alison, who retired as a doctor in 1999 because of persistent heart problems, was in pain last Monday (July 11) and called an ambulance.
After speaking to her GP and then NHS 111, she called an ambulance and was taken to her local NHS hospital, the Royal Hospital Cornwall in Truro.
But she was not taken to the emergency room and instead spent all afternoon and evening in the back of the ambulance she arrived in.
Finally, Ross said she was seen by a junior doctor that evening, who dismissed her, suggesting her problems were Covid symptoms, and returned home.
She woke up Tuesday morning testing negative for Covid but was feeling worse, so Ross checked wait times at other South West hospitals.
He said: “We checked Plymouth, Exeter and Bristol but they were no better.
“Bristol Royal Infirmary informed us that there were 88 people in the emergency room queue.
“The only answer was to go to a hospital and find a hospital that didn’t have a huge line outside and where she could actually get decent quality care.”
They spent the following two days getting in touch with a London doctor who had previously treated Alison for her condition, but they were unable to make an appointment.
But on Thursday (14th) they decided to travel to London anyway, hoping to find a hospital with fewer queues.
Ross said: “Should you ever find yourself in the position we were in last Wednesday, when you think there’s a chance a loved one will die if you do nothing, you’ll probably come to the same conclusion we did and go somewhere else .
“Charing Cross Hospital seemed the easiest to get to so we went there and on arrival at the emergency room only saw one ambulance compared to the 33 that saw we had parked outside Treliske.”
The hospital apologizes for the “inconvenience” caused.
Alison was taken away immediately within minutes of her arrival – and 20 minutes later was lying on a bed in the emergency room, where she has remained ever since.
Ross described how they were “really appalled” at the way things were being handled at the Cornwall hospital – and urged that something needs to change.
He is in the process of writing to several local MPs to tell their story in the hope that something will be done.
He said: “I have nothing but praise for the poor ambulance drivers and trained paramedics who are currently spending their time sitting on the back step of their vehicles, unable to attend other emergencies because they are stuck in a queue.
“We were fortunate to have had the time and resources to undertake the journey to London that we took.
“But I’m afraid to imagine what happens to the old people in Cornwall who can’t travel… do they just accept their fate?
“If the situation weren’t so absurd, it would be ridiculous.
“People in positions of authority need to start banging their heads to figure out a way to resolve this.”
The Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust apologized for the hardship inflicted on Ms Durkin and her husband.
It said: “Our staff work exceptionally hard in very difficult circumstances and will always ensure that patients are assessed upon arrival at our emergency department and the most seriously ill are admitted immediately.”
Cornwall Council, the body responsible for social care in the county, said it was “working closely with partners in the health and care sectors to help people get out of hospital as quickly as possible”.
Recruitment in this sector continues to be “a problem”.