Heath Hospital: Man waits almost 24 hours in 'chaos' emergency department

Mr Jenkins said that just after midnight, there were still 60 to 70 people waiting in the holding area. Credit: Media Wales

A man who spent almost 24 hours waiting in A&E has opened up about the "chaos" inside the department, saying some patients with life-threatening conditions were left "crying out in pain" as they waited to be seen.

Robin Jenkins, from Cheltenham, visited the emergency unit of the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff after being advised to go by a 111 call handler.

Despite having a "serious medical emergency", Mr Jenkins waited 22 hours to be seen, with 4 hours spent on the wrong waiting list.

Mr Jenkins said that he saw a man having a suspected heart attack who was forced to wait in a wheelchair in reception as his family members tried to comfort him.

He also said patients were almost begging staff to attend to an elderly lady with a "horrendous" facial injury because she was so distressed and in so much pain.

Mr Jenkins said his time waiting to be seen in the emergency unit of University Hospital of Wales was a "truly horrible experience"

Meanwhile, British Red Cross volunteers were bringing hot drinks and sandwiches to the 60 to 70 people waiting in the small holding area.

Mr Jenkins has branded the experience as "truly horrible."

He said: "A man behind me said he was in such pain all the time, he wondered if life was worth living any more."

"We were herded together on hard metal seats and under bright lights all day and all night, with the hard-pressed staff doing their best to make sense of the chaos.

"There were dozens of people waiting for far longer than they should have, some with life-threatening conditions," he added.

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board has apologised for his experience, explaining how during the time Mr Jenkins was at the hospital, every clinical area was at full capacity. 

Mr Jenkins said after his experience that the system doctors and nurses work in is "not fit for purpose" Credit: Media Wales

Mr Jenkins also said that, despite the doctors and nurses being "caring, polite and professional", the A&E in Cardiff had a "shocking" lack of order.

He said: "The same names were called out repeatedly. It seemed that nobody had a grip on who was still there needing urgent attention and who had given up waiting but had not told staff they were leaving. It was grim.

"From my experience, the system they work in is not fit for purpose. It’s not good enough for the patients or for the NHS staff trying so hard to help them."He also compared his experience of A&E to his hometown of Cheltenham, saying the latter had a "sense of order" compared to University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.

He said: "It was a long wait but I was eventually seen to, thoroughly checked over and sent home with some vitally important medication and instructions to come back to an outpatients clinic a few days later.

"It was obvious that staff were struggling to get through the workload as quickly as they, and their patients, would have liked. But it felt like there was a sense of order and progression.

"At Cardiff, however, well - words almost fail me."

Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) had previously visited the A&E in Cardiff in June 2022 and identified a damning series of failings – saying the department was overcrowded, "visibly dirty" and cannot guarantee the safety and dignity of patients.

A spokesperson for Cardiff and Vale University Health Board has apologised for Mr Jenkins' experience and has asked him to contact their concerns team.

They said, "While we are unable to comment on individual cases, during the time Robin was with us, our health board was at a high level of escalation, with every clinical area at full capacity.

"Our staff are working incredibly hard, often in difficult circumstances to provide the best and most appropriate care, but acknowledge that this is not at the standard we would want.

“The health and social care system across Wales is experiencing significant and sustained pressure, which is having an impact on patient flow within our hospital and waiting times in our emergency unit.

"We are working closely with colleagues across the health system and Welsh Government to identify ways in which we can alleviate pressures and improve the patient experience."