An 85-year-old man with terminal cancer waited seven hours for an ambulance, despite living directly across the road from his local hospital in north Wales.
Keith Royles, from Bodelwyddan, Denbighshire, fell and broke his hip while cutting grass in September this year. The district hospital for his area, Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, which falls under Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, can be seen from Mr. Royles’ house.
Mr. Royles' daughter Tina described the situation as “heartbreaking”. “We called an ambulance and were told that there would be a wait of between four to seven hours for an ambulance," she said.
The Welsh Ambulance Service, who apologised to Mr. Royles and his family, said hospital handover delays are the “single biggest reason” why they cannot get to some patients quickly.
Speaking to Y Byd ar Bedwar, Mr Royles' daughter added: “We called several times and my sister even tried to flag down an ambulance but they said they couldn’t help.”
It was raining heavily, so neighbours built a temporary shelter over Mr. Royles to attempt to keep him warm and dry. He lay underneath it on a concrete floor, until an ambulance arrived seven hours after their initial phone call.
Once the paramedics arrived, they received a call to send Mr. Royles to Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor, as Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in Bodelwyddan was said to be too busy. The family were told that the paramedics successfully made the argument that the patient lived right across the road from Glan Clwyd hospital and were then able to take Mr. Royles there.
“The system is broken”
“As a family, we’re not faulting the staff, but the system is broken," Mr. Royles' daughter said."I feel sorry for the people that have gotten into the service because it must be so frustrating and heartbreaking to be in that situation. "They must be leaving in their droves." Lee Brooks, Executive Director of Operations at the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “We are deeply sorry about Mr. Royles’ experience, which was no doubt a painful and anxious wait for all involved.
“Hospital handover delays remain the single biggest reason we cannot get to some patients quickly. It’ll take a system-wide effort to resolve a system-wide issue.”
The Royles family told their story as part of Y Byd ar Bedwar’s investigation into the Emergency Department in Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in Bodelwyddan, which is currently under Welsh Government targeted intervention measures.
The department saw 49.3% of patients within the four hour target in October. This was the lowest figure for the whole of Wales. The national target is 95%.
In August, a report by Health Inspectorate Wales found “risks to patients” and “significant concerns” at the A&E department at the hospital. This is the second time this year that concerns have been raised about the standard of care at this department.
Mair Dowell, who is a guest presenter on this episode, was a Sister at Glan Clwyd’s A&E department from the first day it opened in 1980 until her retirement in 2017. On the programme she hears the experiences of concerned staff and patients from the area.
On 22 October, 61-year-old Dawn Sharpe, from Prestatyn, spent 35 hours in the hospital’s A&E department with pneumonia and a stomach virus. She later received an apology from the health board for her experience.
“Impossible working environment”
Two nurses, one still employed at the department, described the place as “chaotic”, while the other who left without a job to go to said it was an “impossible working environment”.
They added that there was a “lack of urgency” surrounding equipment failure and that a lack of beds put increased pressure on staff.
Mrs. Dowell believes bringing back community beds to offer convalescent or non-acute care would alleviate pressures on the main hospitals and their Emergency Departments. She describes the lack of action on the new hospital in Rhyl as “disappointing”.
Angela Wood, Director of Nursing and Midwifery for BCUHB said they’ve taken HIW’s concerning report into the Glan Clwyd’s A&E department “very seriously” and are working hard with the Welsh Government to recruit more staff.
Ms. Wood encouraged staff with any safety concerns to report them to her personally. On community beds, Ms. Wood said that patients should rehabilitate at home, rather than in hospitals.
“We’ve got an improvement director that we’ve appointed who is supporting the staff and working with the staff on the ground to identify what the issues were, what the barriers were to providing the best care they could, and then putting things in place to help support them."
Watch the full programme, Y Byd ar Bedwar, at 8pm on S4C, S4C Clic and iPlayer. The programme has English subtitles.