Patient went to Luton and Dunstable casualty about dandruff, A and E consultant reveals

A patient turned up at A&E at the Luton and Dunstable Hospital with dandruff, a meeting was told.
Credit: PA
One patient went to a hospital casualty department about their dandruff, a meeting was told. Credit: PA

A patient visited a hospital accident and emergency department with nothing more serious than dandruff, a meeting was told.

One of the at the Luton and Dunstable Hospital's emergency consultants revealed the visit as he spoke out about the pressures his staff were under.

Consultant Dave Kirby, the deputy medical director at the Bedfordshire trust, said: "The tolerance and threshold at which society seeks medical care has continued to reduce.

"Now people want to see a doctor, a nurse or a pharmacist about pretty much anything. There's no such thing as a quiet time of day."

He was speaking as Luton Borough Council's scrutiny health and social care review group discussed the performance of the emergency department, which is undergoing a £25m renovation.

Mr Kirby said patient numbers had rocketed from one or two an hour to 15 or 20 an hour at night time.

Asked about average waiting times, Mr Kirby replied: "It depends on how many people turn up, the cubicle spaces availability, and a patient's condition. If you're desperately sick, there's no waiting time.

"If you arrive with dandruff, like someone two weeks ago, you'll wait a long time. It varies between half an hour and three to three-and-a-half hours."

Luton and Dunstable Hospital. Credit: ITV News Anglia.

Mr Kirby said there had been a big rise in alcohol and drug-related problems, and in paediatric cases, together with a massive increase in mental health issues.

"Working on a building site is a difficult process," he warned. "The staff are burnt out."

"We're seeing an increase in the amount of violence and aggression taken out on our staff to the point where we've security 24 hours a day in the department. We're looking into body worn video cameras for our clinical leaders there."

David Carter, the chief executive of the Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said the Luton and Dunstable had been "probably the most consistent accident and emergency performer in the country" before the pandemic.

But things had changed, shown by long waits in accident and emergency and the knock-on effect for ambulances, according to Mr Carter.

"We're struggling with the flow through hospital," he explained. "We need to separate Covid and non-Covid patients, which slows us down and gives us less flexibility. And there's staff absence through Covid.

"People accessing London accident and emergencies as commuters are now working from home, increasing the pressure on towns outside including Luton.

"We're not happy with the current performance level. We need to get that back up. The good news is the £25m we're spending will provide significant extra capacity, with more space and cubicles to meet growing demand."