Gran who 'spent six days in a chair' at Heath Hospital A&E describes 'inhumane' experience

Val Griffiths said there was no privacy in her area of the unit. Credit: Media Wales

A grandmother who says she spent six days sat in a chair in Wales' busiest A&E department has described the experience as "inhumane" and "deeply frustrating".

Val Griffiths, from Cardiff, was diagnosed with severe food poisoning in August and has experienced problems with her breathing since then.

Last week her condition worsened so she attended the emergency unit at the University Hospital of Wales (UHW).Ms Griffiths says the duration of her stay - from Tuesday, September 27 to Sunday, October 1 - was spent on a chair connected to an IV drip surrounded by other patients.

She said there was no privacy in her area of the unit, known as the 'IV lounge', and claims she wasn't given any medication for 24 hours as the staff had "accidentally scrubbed her name off the whiteboard".

A recent Healthcare Inspectorate Wales report found the UHW's A&E department was "visibly dirty". Credit: Media Wales

"I'm not trying to criticise the nurses as they are under almost constant pressure, but from my experience it felt like I was in a hospital in a third-world country," said Val.

"It's absolutely not fit for purpose. Inhumane is the word I would use to describe it. I've told my son to never take me there again."

Ms Griffiths, who has severe arthritis in her spine and is recovering from a double spinal fracture, said she was given antibiotics through an IV drip upon her admission to A&E. But she said that as the department was so busy she feared mistakes were being made.

She said: "One day I didn't have any observations done, I didn't have my medication, my drip wasn't replaced and I didn't see a doctor. I was totally confused why this was happening. They have a board there with all the patients' names on it and I could see my name had been scrubbed off. I queried it with one of the nurses when I had a walk around, and she then went on the computer and could see that I should have been on there and added it again."They then came in and did my obs straight away and they got my medication. Those are the sort of mistakes that are being made."

Val, who worked for Oxfam as an area manager for Wales, added that her legs became swollen during her time in the unit sitting on a high-backed chair, but it wasn't until day five that she says she was given a more comfortable reclining chair that had been recently purchased by the health board.

On Sunday, October 2, Val said staff made the decision to discharge her and not transfer her to a ward in the main hospital.

"They discharged 16 of us in one go which seemed like an awful lot to me," she added.

"It felt like they were just clearing us out. By that point I just wanted to get out of there and come home. I'm now on oral antibiotics but my breathing is still not right."

Val believes system-wide pressures in the Welsh NHS are to blame for the delays in A&E.

She said: "I think care in the community isn't there. What happens then is they can't shift people out of wards, it then causes blockages in A&E and its staff are having to cope with that. There's a distinct lack of communication in A&E in regards to what is happening to patients as they haven't got time to speak to them."

Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) visited the University Hospital of Wales' A&E department in June and found that it was overcrowded, visibly dirty, and could not guarantee the safety and dignity of patients.

A spokesperson for Cardiff and Vale University Health Board said: "We are sorry to hear that Ms Griffiths recently had a poor experience while in our care.

"We would welcome the opportunity to discuss the concerns raised by Ms Griffiths via our dedicated Concerns Team so we can thoroughly explore the issues."