Ordeal: MP David Burrowes was left in a cupboard then in a corridor at North Middlesex Hospital when he arrived with a ruptured appendix at 5.30am
An MP who suffered a ruptured appendix has told how he could have died after being left to wait for more than 12 hours on a trolley in a ‘chaotic’ A&E department.
David Burrowes had expected the emergency department at North Middlesex Hospital in Edmonton, North London, to be quiet when he was taken there in agony at 5.30am.
Instead, he found patients crammed into every corner – and beleaguered staff ‘run ragged’.
In a disturbing account, Mr Burrowes, Conservative MP for nearby Enfield Southgate, described how:
- It took 12 hours to get a CT scan – because overworked staff forgot to enter his details on the system;
- It took a further seven hours for him to be diagnosed – while all the time a deadly infection could have been spreading through his body;
- He was first put in a cubicle that doubled as a store cupboard – and then a crowded corridor.
Critics claim North Middlesex Hospital A&E has struggled to cope since the department at Chase Farm Hospital in neighbouring Enfield was closed last winter.
And last week an official report concluded there had been an ‘underestimate of the resources’ needed to maintain standards, while nurses’ workloads had ‘increased significantly’.
Mr Burrowes, 45, said: ‘I now realise I could have died waiting so long to get my scan and operation.
‘The place was jam-packed. Every cubicle was taken and trolleys lined the corridors. In between, people well enough to sit up were on chairs. If this is what it’s like at the height of summer, how bad could it be in the depths of winter?’
Mr Burrowes was taken to A&E by ambulance at 5.30am on June 2, after collapsing in agony. At 7am, a doctor assured him he would get a CT scan within ‘a couple of hours’.
He said: ‘For six hours my wife, mother, and a friend were being told “Yes, yes, yes – he will be seen.” But they were being fobbed off. They found out I had not been booked in for a scan on the system.
‘In the meantime, I was on a trolley, in an A&E cubicle that doubled as a storeroom, curled up in pain.
‘They were very concerned and apologised for me being missed from the CT booking system.’
But after finally being taken for a scan at 5.30pm, Mr Burrowes had to wait another seven hours in an A&E corridor for a diagnosis – because all the doctors able to interpret the results were in theatre.
He finally went into theatre at 2pm the next day – almost 33 hours after arriving by ambulance.
The MP, a father of six, said: ‘They discovered I had a perforated, gangrenous appendix. Thankfully they got to it and the resulting infection in time, before it became life-threatening. It could have been very serious. People die of appendicitis and time is crucial.
Closed: Nurses have been put under strain after the A&E at nearby Chase Farm Hospital was closed in January
‘I waited nine to ten hours longer than I should have done for the scan. If it was not for my family and friend acting as my advocates, I fear I would have been completely lost in the system.
‘I fear for other patients, who may well be disorientated and vulnerable, and, without their own advocate, become helpless and voiceless.
‘I know the hospital was almost certainly trying to do its best. But when you have an A&E bursting at the seams, you can’t give everyone the best care. The reality I saw was that on an ordinary day in June my local A&E could not cope.’
In 2007, David Cameron joined Mr Burrowes in opposing the closure of Chase Farm A&E and was pictured with him outside the hospital.
But after coming to power, Mr Cameron’s first Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, approved the closure.
Hospital inspectors from the Care Quality Commission coincidentally arrived the day after Mr Burrowes’ A&E ordeal.
In their report, published last week, they calculated that 189,000 patients would use the A&E this year – 39,000 more than before the Chase Farm department was downgraded to an Urgent Care Centre in December.
Health bosses had forecast only 26,000 extra patients would end up at North Middlesex A&E annually.
Strain: Mr Burrowes described beleaguered staff 'run ragged' at North Middlesex Hospital
The report also found managers were ‘firefighting’ as the hospital was ‘stretched’. Yet two more A&Es in the area are to close next month.
The rationale is that concentrating emergency services in fewer places will be better for patients, in part because it will be easier to staff them properly around the clock.
A spokesman for North Middlesex University Hospital said Mr Burrowes’ stay had coincided with a period of exceptional demand, but denied patients were at risk.
He said: ‘Our A&E department is one of the busiest in London, on some days seeing as many as 600 patients.
'During the three days in early June when David Burrowes was a patient with us, there were exceptional challenges which resulted in delays in A&E treatment.
‘We have apologised to David for the time it took to confirm his complex diagnosis and to get him to the operating theatre. It took longer than usual, but he was safe throughout, although we do recognise he experienced considerable discomfort.
‘We strongly reject his suggestion that patients who don’t have someone to speak up for them are at risk. When a patient is alone, our doctors and nurses are particularly vigilant and also carry out.