By Howard Nulty
I have now been to two inquests in the last four weeks, acting for bereaved relatives where the reason why the relative died was a simple lack of resources available to the NHS Trust in question. These inquests were in different areas (but both in the North West), but on each occasion had the NHS been able to access more resources these people would still in my view be alive today.
In one case an ambulance failed to arrive for several hours because there were too many ambulances queueing up at Emergency Departments (ED) across the area, as the paramedics cannot hand over their patients until the ED can take them. In that case a man in his sixties bled to death whilst he was being kept waiting.
In a similar vein an elderly lady was kept in a room off an ED, as she had been admitted and needed medical care beyond the expertise of an ED. She was kept in that ED because there were no more beds available in the Hospital. She was kept there for 60 hours before she died with the ED staff not knowing what she had received by way of nutrition or medication. She received fluids haphazardly, there being no plan as to what fluids she should receive and when.
On each occasion the ED Consultant said that the situations did not affect the eventual outcome – they would say that wouldn’t they.
Both Coroners heard that the procedures were now or had been changed to ensure that this did not happen again, but why should someone have to die before things are done?
I feel for the NHS staff involved. Yes they have changed things, but all they are doing, like the little boy who puts his finger in the dyke to stop the sea, is simply patching up a system overloaded to breaking point. At some stage the water will burst out somewhere else and someone else will die. The staff work so hard and they do care, but the tasks are beyond them with the resources that they have.
In my view we are almost at a stage where the best advice is to stay at home. At least there you will receive proper care.
I am writing this as I am sure some people do not believe that the problem exists. They think that the comments are political spin. I am not politically motivated. I am though not prepared to sit back and see more vulnerable people having their lives shortened by lack of resources. I am not really looking forward to another Coroner saying that “perhaps something good will come of this tragedy”
These are not isolated incidents. Last year I was in Manchester listening to how the absence of resources meant that a lady with Parkinsons was not looked after in a ward. She fell, breaking her hip and then dying from an infection linked to the fracture. These are just the ones that spring to mind. There are so many more. I am just glad that my parents didn’t have to go into hospital and be exposed to these problems.