After collapsing at a hotel shower in Birmingham three months ago, Shaun Cregen was rushed to the city’s Heartlands Hospital on July 26 before being transferred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital a month later where he says he has been laying flat on his back ever since. Despite this, staff have deemed him medically fit for discharge warning he will be removed on from the premises on November 5 if he refuses to leave.
A letter also states: “As you will no longer be on the premises an inpatient, the hospital will not be responsible for providing you with care and facilities, including meals. We will not permit visitors, including takeaway deliveries.”
The photographer was diagnosed 18 months ago with a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak, a condition in which the watery liquid surrounding the brain spills out through a hole or tear in the skull and then drains into the ears or the nose.
When the fluid leaks the volume and pressure within the skull drops meaning the cushioning effect is reduced and his brain slumps.
This results in the 37-year-old suffering from a number of effects including blacking out and fainting when sitting up or standing as the circulation cuts off to his brain.
He told the Evening News: “I have zero quality of life. I can’t stand up or walk and I struggle to even talk some days. I am lying like a sardine at the moment. It’s like they’ve forgotten about me. The condition is seriously affecting my cognitive functioning and I don’t know what more I can do. I’ve been here for so long it is definitely affecting my mental and physical wellbeing.”
Mr Cregen, who now lives in London, has seeked help from a neuroradiologist who agreed to perform a procedure to help him at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge after examining him on September 29. However he would have needed to be transferred back to Birmingham for a few days for observation before being released, which staff in Birmingham refused.
The University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust has handed Mr Cregen a bill of £18,000 due to him not ordinarily resident in the UK. This is disputed by Mr Cregen who claims he is entitled to free healthcare due to being a British citizen and has provided related documents as proof. He says he lives in the UK for around seven months a year with the remaining five months spent in Europe and Asia for work purposes.
After being stranded alone in hospital for months he is frightened of being forcibly discharged on Monday.
Mr Cregen said: “The procedure involves basically putting a balloon in the area where my arteries are narrow so then the blood flow does not stop. If I didn’t have to be here, then I wouldn’t be here. It’s very depressing and I think it is deliberate intimidation because I meet the requirements. I was absolutely flabbergasted to receive the bill. I pay tax and national insurance and I have proved with a passport, phone bill and EHIC card to show I am eligible.”
With his mum ill in Edinburgh and his fiancee of three years Erika in Hamburg, Germany, Mr Cregen feels very isolated and does not know what he’ll do or where he’ll go.
Mr Cregen’s mum, Rose, who lives in Clermiston, said: “It’s absolutely terrible and I’m losing my hair with worry. He was born and bred in Edinburgh and has a British passport. I can’t get round it all myself. If staff cooperated he’d have been out of hospital long ago. I keep buying a lottery ticket in the hope of winning to pay for treatment privately. There is no way Shaun is medically fit to leave hospital.”
A University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust spokesman, said: “On his arrival in England having flown in from Germany, Mr Cregen initially presented at Heartlands Hospital and was admitted on 26 July. He was subsequently transferred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham on 24 August for further investigations by our specialist teams. He was later deemed medically fit for discharge and was due to transfer to Addenbrooke’s Hospital on 29 September for further investigations.
“Our neurology and neurosurgery teams have since been in contact with his consultant in Germany as the procedure he is requesting is not carried out at UHB.
“Mr Cregen is therefore currently occupying a hospital bed that could be used by an NHS patient requiring acute treatment.
“Treatment in NHS emergency departments is free for patients that are not ordinarily resident in the UK, although any subsequent treatment as a result of admission to hospital is chargeable.
“Patients are not discharged from hospital until they are medically fit and it is safe to do so. Patients not ordinarily resident in the UK, or who do not have travel or health insurance are not legally eligible to receive non-emergency care or ongoing rehabilitation on the NHS – either in or out of hospital – unless it is funded by other means.”