Dying man left on hospital trolley for 11 hours

A man was left on a trolley for 11 hours at the Western General Hospital. Picture: Ian Rutherford
A man was left on a trolley for 11 hours at the Western General Hospital. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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A TERMINALLY ill diabetic was left on a hospital trolley for 11 hours – despite repeated requests from his family for help.

A shortage of beds meant the gravely ill man was left to languish on the gurney for nearly three times longer than national guidelines stipulate at the Western General.

He had to wait eight hours for insulin vital to control blood sugar levels.

The shocking episode has resulted in health chiefs being slammed for the patient’s “totally unacceptable” treatment following an ombudsman’s investigation.

The patient, who had terminal lung cancer and heart disease and died less than two-weeks later, was admitted in January last year following an outpatient appointment with his consultant. He was taken to an assessment ward but then left on the trolley.

The damning report said the man, identified only as Mr C, and his wife became distressed because they had no insulin or food – as the canteen was closed. She said she told staff on a number of occasions that she was worried he would become hypoglycaemic but was told they had nothing to give him. It was only when the family threatened to take him home, hospital staff provided insulin and his daughter had to get something to eat from a supermarket.

After being on the trolley for about 11 hours, Mr C was given a room in another assessment ward, which was cold and had no heating before he was eventually moved to an oncology ward. Shortly before his discharge, the cancer specialist told the couple that Mr C had about two weeks to live, leaving them “shocked and grief stricken” as they had expected it to be months.

The ombudsman found health professionals should have done more to make sure the patient fully understood his prognosis. He was also critical the board were unable to provide the patient’s nursing and medical notes. The report condemned NHS Lothian for its failure of care and failure to treat him with “respect and dignity” and for the insensitive response to his wife’s subsequent complaint.

It made a series of recommendations to NHS Lothian including providing a plan to prevent future breaches, ensure records were stored correctly and ensuring complaints are responded to in an “appropriate tone”.

Lothian MSP Sarah Boyack said the family’s experience was “heartrending” and urged immediate changes. Sarah Ballard Smith, Nurse Director, apologised on behalf of NHS Lothian.