Woman's diary of 48 hours in A&E where hungry patients bought loaf on Manchester ward

Tracey Elliott kept a diary of her experience during 48 hours in A&E. Credit: MEN Media

A woman has described her 48-hour wait across two A&E departments - with hungry patients buying a loaf of bread on a ward.

Tracey Elliott, 55, from Sale, had an emergency referral to A&E after a doctor suspected she had cauda equina syndrome (CES).

A rare and severe type of spinal narrowing, CES sees nerves in the lower back suddenly become severely compressed.

In a series of diary entries, Tracey described the two days she spent in Wythenshawe Hospital and Salford Royal Hospital.

She said she had to club together with other patients to buy a loaf of bread for one ward and was left overnight in corridors - before being told she did not have CES as suspected.

Tracey said she was left without her typical medication and started suffering painful withdrawals as well as her other symptoms.

She said she left the experience in A&E 'never wanting to go back'.

A corridor in A&E at Salford Royal Hospital, where Tracey Elliott waited for an MRI scan Credit: MEN Media

She wrote in her diary: "My ordeal began on 29 November, having been referred immediately to A&E.

"1.50pm: I arrived at Wythenshawe Hospital and, having been booked in, was told to take a seat."

"By 9.30pm: I almost passed out, I had not been offered painkillers, food or drink during those seven hours. Seven hours, 40 minutes in A&E [so far].

"9.40pm: I was moved to a cubicle in A&E and could lie on a trolley. I saw a doctor who said I'd go for an MRI.

"11.26pm: I was still on a trolley in A&E, having been told I would be moved to a ward. I could hear a lady shouting help every two seconds for hours on end, so sleep was not an option. Eight hours, 46 minutes in A&E."

By the morning, Tracey, a retired secretary at a commercial printing company, said she was still waiting and was struggling without food. 

She claims she and other patients had to collect money for a nurse to go and buy a loaf of bread for the ward. Tracey wrote: "30 November, Wythenshawe Hospital A&E.

"5.30am: I spent the night on the trolley in A&E, at some point I had been given a paracetamol IV and when it didn't work, I was given codeine, this didn't work either so about 5.30am I received oral morphine. No MRI had materialised.

"10.23am: I still hadn't had any sustenance, despite asking the nurse repeatedly for some food and a drink and eventually received toast and a coffee.

"2.30pm: I was moved to a corridor with three other people. I had not received a MRI, food, drink nor treatment, I had been in A&E for hours.

"We were all hungry and hadn't received food so we asked for toast, only to be told there was no bread, we all contributed so the nurse could buy a loaf and we could eat."

After 27 hours in A&E, Tracey claims she was still in the corridor but was finally taken for her MRI scan. 

But for medical reasons, the procedure needed to be done 13 miles away at Salford Royal Hospital, so Tracey waited for an ambulance transfer just after 6pm.

At around 9.30pm, she arrived at Salford Royal on a trolley in a corridor, she says.

Salford Royal Hospital. Credit: MEN Media

Tracey's diary continues: "1 December 2022, Salford Royal A&E. 3.33am: I was in an empty room overnight, still on my trolley. The patient I was sharing the corridor with was shouting obscenities and racially abusing his carer.

"I've had the MRI and had my shunt reset. Apparently there is a piece of loose disc but I need to wait to see the doctor.

"Now I've been told I need to return to Wythenshawe. I haven't brushed my teeth in three days, and haven't been offered food or drink.

"I've been told my regular medications, when I requested them again tonight, are my responsibility to provide."

Her diaries continue, "At 8am on 1 December, a nurse brought Tracey her prescription medications, plus my first pillow, toothbrush, toothpaste, a towel and soap.

"It was very heartening to have received a little compassion. For the first time I have been given a call-the-nurse button".

But by 9am, she said she was "back in a corridor, as my room was needed."

Tracey was then taken back to Wythenshawe's A&E from Salford that morning, after 43 hours in the system.

Tracey continued: "4.20pm: Still in Wythenshawe A&E triage, an orthopaedic doctor has spoken to me in A&E to say it's not cauda equina. When I asked what it was and what they could do, I was told their only job was to diagnose cauda equina."

After approximately 50 hours in A&E, Tracey says she caught a taxi home. 

Tracey said: "In conclusion, my stay in A&E has been detrimental to my physical health.

"My mental health has been impacted the most, I can't sleep, I'm nervous, bursting into tears, and obsessively reliving the trauma, the lack of empathy I was subject to, how my needs both physical and medical were ignored."

Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester. Credit: MEN Media

A spokesperson for Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Wythenshawe Hospital, said: "We have exceptionally high demand for our emergency services."

"Our staff are working incredibly hard, but patients may wait longer in some cases than we would want.

"Patients are always seen in order of clinical priority, and they may be delayed if more urgent cases arrive."

"Ms Elliott has submitted a formal complaint and we will be taking that process forwards."

Simon Featherstone, director of nursing at Salford Care Organisation, added: "Our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) has been working with the PALS service from Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust to support with any information about Ms Elliott’s care.

"We will also continue to liaise directly with Ms Elliott on any aspects of her care at Salford Royal Care Organisation that she is concerned about or wants further information on."

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