A grandfather was forced to spend 55 hours stuck in a cramped consultation room while waiting for a bed in AE.
Geoffrey Knell, 79, spent more than two and a half ‘uncomfortable and painful’ days in a chair before he was given a space on a ward at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, Kent.
The grandfather-of-seven, from Margate, was admitted with a chest infection at 7am on Sunday, March 26, and was diagnosed with pneumonia later that day.
But Mr Knell, who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — a common lung condition causing breathing difficulties — was not given a bed until 2:30pm on Tuesday.
His son, Paul, also claimed he was not given a single hot meal while waiting and was left suffering ‘two nights of sleep deprivation’.
Geoffrey Knell, spent more than two and a half ‘uncomfortable and painful’ days in a chair before he was eventually moved at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, Kent
The grandfather-of-seven, also from Margate, was admitted with a chest infection at 7am on Sunday, March 26. But Mr Knell, who already has Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – a common lung condition causing breathing difficulties – was not given a bed until 2:30pm on Tuesday, after being diagnosed with pneumonia
He added: ‘He was with seven other people in a consultation room with no privacy.
‘It was really cramped and there was no space for visitors. It’s really sad. He didn’t have any hot food — just cold sandwiches — and you have to get your own water.
‘He can’t really walk very far, only about two steps, so my mum has to be with him 90 per cent of the time. But that means she’s been losing sleep too, and she’s 76.’
Earlier this month, amid mounting pressures on staff, East Kent Hospitals warned people not to attend the AE departments at the Margate hospital, as well as its William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, unless in an emergency or if their injury or illness was life-threatening.
What do the latest NHS performance figures show?
Stats released earlier this month show the overall waiting list grew by around 13,000 to 7.21million in January. This is up from 7.20 in December.
There were 1,122 people waiting more than two years to start treatment at the end of January, down from 1,149 in December.
The number of people waiting more than a year to start hospital treatment was 379,245, down from 406,035 the previous month.
Some 34,976 people had to wait more than 12 hours in AE departments in England in February. The figure is down from 42,735 in January.
A total of 126,948 people waited at least four hours from the decision to admit to admission in February, down from 142,139 in January.
Just 71.5 per cent of patients were seen within four hours at AEs last month, the worst ever performance. NHS standards set out that 95 per cent should be admitted, transferred or discharged within the four-hour window.
In February, the average category one response time – calls from people with life-threatening illnesses or injuries – was 8 minutes and 30 seconds. The target time is seven minutes.
Ambulances took an average of 32 minutes and 20 seconds to respond to category two calls, such as burns, epilepsy and strokes. This is nearly twice as long as the 18 minute target.
Response times for category three calls – such as late stages of labour, non-severe burns and diabetes – averaged 1 hour, 42 minutes and 39 seconds. Nine in 10 ambulances are supposed to arrive to these calls within two hours.
Some 485,956 patients were waiting more than six weeks for a key diagnostic test in January, including an MRI scan, non-obstetric ultrasound or gastroscopy. This is the highest level since summer 2020.
Previously, the NHS rule book stated that at least 95 per cent of patients attending AE should be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours.
However, this has not been met nationally since 2015.
But in January, NHS England set hospitals an objective of seeing only three-quarters of AE patients within four hours — effective downgrading the official target.
East Kent Hospital Trust — which runs five hospitals in the area — is currently recording the fifth worst AE waiting times in all of England.
Last month, just 40 per cent of patients were seen within four hours at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital and the William Harvey Hospital.
These were the worst on record for the trust.
And more than 1,000 patients were left waiting at least 12 hours for a bed for the seventh month in a row.
Yet trusts in nearby Maidstone and Dartford recorded just seven 12-hour waits combined across the same period.
Latest NHS performance data shows that 34,976 people had to wait more than 12 hours in AE departments across England in February.
The figure is down from 42,735 in January.
A major cause of the so-called ‘corridor waits’ is the huge number of patients being kept in hospital despite being well enough to leave.
These delayed discharges of ‘bed-blockers’ are often caused by a lack of suitable places for patients to be transferred to amid a shortage of care home spots, and not enough help from carers to enable patients to return home.
This, in turn, clogs up hospitals beds and causes a backlog in AE.
The combination of ongoing pressure on services, the backlog of care and chronic workforce shortages means unprecedented waiting times have risen to record highs.
Sarah Shingler, chief nursing and midwifery officer at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital, told MailOnline today: ‘I am very sorry to hear of Geoffrey’s experience — this is not the standard of care we want for our patients.
‘Safe patient care remains our priority and our staff are working extremely hard to ensure people are seen as quickly as possible.’
She added: ‘Both our emergency departments are being significantly expanded following £30m investment, with improved waiting areas, treatment areas for adults and children, and staff facilities.
‘We are also using virtual wards, which will allow patients to receive care and treatment in their own homes, helping to avoid hospital admissions.’
But Mr Knell’s heart-breaking ordeal also comes ahead of the biggest walkout in NHS history in 11 days time, which will see thousands of junior doctors — including in AE departments — strike for 96-hours in a dispute over pay.
East Kent Hospital Trust – which runs five hospitals in the area including the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital – is currently recording the fifth worst AE waiting times in all of England
His son said staff were ‘clearly overwhelmed’, with corridors also being used as waiting rooms.
He added: ‘I know the staff are doing everything they can — I’m just a concerned son. It’s worrying and adding stress for the family.
‘We just want him to be settled — that’s our main concern — so that he’s getting rest and recovering as quick as possible and coming out of the hospital.’
Mr Knell also claimed an 82-year-old woman had been waiting 12 hours longer than his father for a bed.
Read more: Britain’s broken NHS, like you’ve never seen before: Horrifying documentary captures final moments of man killed by delays
Staff were so concerned she would develop bed sores sitting in a chair that she was given an inflatable cushion, he said.
Mr Knell, from North Thanet in Kent, claimed he had contacted his MP Sir Roger Gale, who told him he would be raising the matter with Health Secretary Steve Barclay.
Rosie Duffield, Canterbury’s Labour MP, warned the delays could see people in urgent need of care ‘fall through the cracks’.
She said: ‘People across east Kent in need of emergency medical attention are forced to wait far too long to be seen, and too many are left for hours often in serious pain, with increasing distress and anxiety.
‘I’m very worried that these delays are putting people off going to AE when they need medical attention.
‘Unacceptable waits will mean people in urgent need could fall through the cracks.’
She added: ‘We need to see immediate action from the government to get hospital waiting times down, for AE departments and routine treatment.
‘People also struggle to see their GP, which puts further pressure on already overstretched AEs.
‘It’s clear that we can’t go on like this. Ministers need to recognise this and act fast to save lives.
‘I know from constituents, family and friends in east Kent that the situation here is currently extremely concerning and that unacceptable waiting times for treatment need to improve urgently.’