Glan Clwyd Hospital bed-blocking experiences

Image caption The mother of BBC reporter Roger Pinney was treated at Glan Clwyd Hospital

As winter pressures hit hospitals and lead to bed-blocking, reporter Roger Pinney shares first-hand experiences after his 88-year-old mother became a patient at busy Glan Clwyd Hospital in Denbighshire.

A couple of weeks ago, I happened to interview the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board's medical director about winter pressures.

I have come to know Prof Matt Makin reasonably well over the last year or two and find him to be not just a skilled professional but genuinely caring.

Our discussion moved to the subject of bed-blocking. This happens when a hospital is unable to move patients out, so A&E cannot move anyone in.

"Surely you have brought this on yourselves?" I asked.

"Over the last few years you've closed dozens of beds in community hospitals, so isn't it little wonder patients clog up the main hospitals?"

Prof Makin trotted out a pretty familiar reply - it was along the lines that health care was changing and it was right to close community beds because patients would much prefer to be looked after in their own homes.

Little did I realise within a short while I would have first hand experience of the problem and the effect it can have on patients and their families.

My mother is 88 and suffers from dementia and lives with my wife and I.

That said, she is remarkably independent. She loves company, shopping and the short walk to the pub. But, more importantly, my mum is able to get herself up in the morning, shower and dress, and climb the stairs at bedtime.

But that changed last week.

Over Christmas she banged her leg on the car door and a large nasty looking bruise came out. It was treated by nurses at our GP surgery but somehow got infected. Over a few days she became more and more immobile and on Thursday, following a visit to the GP, was admitted to Glan Clwyd Hospital in Bodelwyddan.

Mindful we should all only use the ambulance service in emergencies, my wife drove her to the hospital but struggled to get her out of the car. She asked if a porter could come out and help but my wife was told "absolutely not".

'Blood clot'

Apparently porters are "not insured to work outside".

"Call an ambulance," my wife was told - to the hospital's front door.

With some difficulty my wife managed to manoeuvre my mother into a wheelchair by herself.

Mum was admitted to AMU (acute medical unit), where patients go to be assessed before they are moved on to the appropriate ward. No-one should be there for more than about 24 hours.

Mum's wound was infected and she also had a blood clot.

She was prescribed antibiotics and had treatment for the clot.

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But the wound needed to be seen by a tissue viability nurse, who would not be at the hospital for a further six days.

Following some strong advocacy from myself and my wife we were told they would do their best to get the nurse there sooner.

So what does all this have to do with winter pressures and bed-blocking?

If the system had been working properly, Mum would have been transferred promptly to either a general ward or to elderly care, and therefore freeing up her bed in AMU.

Eventually, a bed became available, but in the cancer unit.

As fantastic as they were with Mum, they shouldn't have been looking after her, but there was simply no where else they could put her and I got the impression she was lucky to be there. On Monday, I was told there were 35 patients at Glan Clwyd looking for a bed. That's a traffic jam.

As the nurse I spoke to said: "It's like this all the time, we are not able to do our jobs."

Postscript: Mum was finally moved to the care of the elderly ward early Monday evening. She'd spent five nights in Glan Clwyd in four different beds.

Health board response

A Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board spokesman said: "Due to patient confidentiality, we are unable to comment on individual cases. However, should Mrs Pinney's family wish to speak to medical and nursing staff regarding their mother's care, the ward staff would be more than happy to arrange this.

"In relation to the comment about 35 patients waiting for beds to become available, the health board has faced significant pressure in relation to emergency admissions over the last few months and our staff have coped tremendously well to deliver clinical care in very difficult circumstances.

"During periods of high demand it can be difficult in ensuring that patients move through the hospital system in a timely manner.

"Unfortunately, this can lead to patients waiting longer to be transferred from the Emergency Department to the ward and a delay in ambulances handing over patients.

"We would like to apologise to any patients who experienced delays during these busy times."

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