"Third world scenes at A&E"

About: Barnet Hospital

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I arrived with chest pain on the hottest day of the year, with very high levels of patients coming to A&E. Though there were regular announcements apologizing for the long delays, and estimating non-urgent cases at 4 hours, waits were very long indeed - I was there for 5 hours, and some people wo had arrived before me had still not been seen by a doctor by the time I left. Building work was going on right next to the A&E department, and builders regularly walked through, often carrying heavy equipment or taking things out -- on more than one occasion patients being wheeled in beds had to make way for the builders. The 'inner' waiting area only had about 12 chairs, with the result that some patients had to stand, often for hours; at one point, relatives waiting along a wall were advised to move away 'as they couldn't be sure the building work might not bring the wall down'. In spite of the heat, there were no cups available by the basin in the waiting area; the nearest water and cups were 15 yards away by the very busy nurses' station, which of course was too far to walk for people with foot injuries (there were a few) and people feeling bad with no relative or friend with them. Not once during the time I was there did a nurse bring water or ask if anyone needed a drink. Nor was there any food anywhere near; the nearest source was a dispensing machine about 100 yards away, and to reach the cafe was a 7 minute walk outside the building in the blazing sun. People who could not walk or had no-one with them had no means of obtaining food during the hours they were there. On two occasions patients with foot problems were asked to walk to the cubicles, and had to ask whether they could have a wheel chair -- the nurses seemed quite surprised. The 'inner' waiting area became so crowded that those of us waiting for blood results and to see a doctor were asked to go to the larger, 'outer' waiting room; about 60-70 people were packed in there, with no air-conditioning -- everyone was flapping bits of the promotional literature lying around in a desperate attempt to keep cool. I saw a couple with a very small baby wearing only a nappy and apparently asleep or unresponsive, standing there for over 20 minutes, with nothing more than a sheet of paper to fan the baby. The staff were working hard but were not very informative; the nurse who gave me an ECG and took blood was chewing gum and never looked me in the eye. The doctor who saw me took 30 seconds & did not explain the origin of the problem. The patients had no means of understanding what was going on and why people who did not seem urgent cases were often being treated before people in obvious pain. One young man who came in in evident distress and curled up on a chair was there for an hour or so before a nurse noticed that he had apparently lapsed into a non-responsive state; it took another 10 minutes for her to find a trolley and a porter and very awkardly load him on to it.

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Response from Barnet Hospital

As an organisation we are committed from learning from specific issues and from any mistakes we may have made. Hearing about where we can do better helps us to pinpoint where exactly to make improvements to the service we provide. The Trust apologies for the poor experience that you had in our Emergency Department at Barnet Hospital Your comments will be forwarded to the Emergency Department managers. Please contact the Trust on bcfpals@nhs.net if you wish to provide your details and get a more detailed response from the managers

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