Anger over new A&E rules at Doncaster hospital as visitor numbers return to pre-lockdown levels

Lockdown may have seen A&E levels plunge – but doctors are warning figures are back to the levels they saw before the coronavirus arrived.

Thursday, 20th August 2020, 6:00 am

And arrangements put in place to run the emergency department with more social distancing have been slated, for preventing a family member staying with a patient through the system.

Bosses at the hospital have revealed that the numbers they are seeing within the emergency department are slowly but surely going back to pre-Covid levels.

July’s figure was 13,680, with August’s looking like it may end up around 15,000 – which is roughly the same as last year’s figure. In comparison, this number in April, at the height of lockdown was just 8,000.

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Ambulances parked outside Doncaster Royal Infirmary's emergency department

As they deal with the issue, restrictions have been put in place on loved ones accompanying patients, as it is felt that with more people around it is harder to maintain that social distancing.

Doctors say they do allow for someone to accompany in urgent circumstances.

However, the stricter rules over attendance have already sparked controversy.

Former nurse Gary Tams, from Cantley, criticised the Doncaster department after it refused let him stay with his wife when she needed to make two visits to the emergency department at Doncaster Royal Infirmary last month.

Gary and Christine Tams

Former NHS psychiatric nurse Gary, aged 57, was angry because he was not allowed to come with his 56-year-old wife, Christine, to the hospital, even though he felt she was not really in a state to explain what was strong with her. He said was told had to stay at home.

The first time she went to A&E, at around midnight on July 22, she was being sick after an allergic reaction to the drug moviprep, which is prescribed to clear bowels. He said Christine was sent home after being given some fluids through a drip.

He was still worried about her when she returned home, and within 90 minutes took her to the A&E at Barnsley hospital, where he used to work.

He said he was allowed to wait in a room just outside. He said the doctor there looked at her medical notes and arranged for her to have a colonoscopy to investigate abdominal pain she had been suffering.

A few days later, at 12.15pm on January 26, she attended A&E at Doncaster again, suffering from hallucinations after taking lamotrigine, a drug she had been prescribed for epilepsy. He said at that point she didn't even know where she was, and was threatening to kill herself. He felt he needed to be with her, but was not allowed to accompany her.

He also claims no one checked her medical records, and there was no discharge letter so no one told him how they'd treated her.

He said during all the dealings with the hospital other than the trips to the A&E for chronic pain she had been very well treated and looked after.

Her tablets had been prescribed by Grimsby Hospital, where they lived before moving to Doncaster.

Gary said: “Surely there must be somewhere we can wait and get information. Christine wasn’t even able to talk. I should have been there to help explain. It is the assessment and triage that is all wrong.”

He added: “If she had not been prescribed the medicines she was given, she would not have had to go to A&E in the first place, and that would have saved the NHS money.”

David Purdue, director of nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals, said: “Throughout the challenges presented during Covid-19, we have had to impose visiting restrictions upon a number of our services, asking that patients are only accompanied when absolutely necessary.

"At present, this way of working is particularly important as the number of patients has risen to pre-Covid-19 levels within our emergency departments, and we must do all we can to ensure that we adhere to social distancing and other infection prevention and control measures to protect both patients and staff within what are very restricted clinical areas.

“Mr and Mrs Tams have brought this particular episode of care to our attention, and we are investigating further to see if we can improve our processes during this challenging time and understand what we can improve in future.”

A spokesperson for Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Grimsby Hospital, said: “Any medication supplied to patients by our staff should come with a leaflet outlining any potential side effects. If Mr Tams would like to raise any concerns about his wife’s medication then we would ask him to contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) on 03033 306518 or by email at [email protected] so we can speak to him directly.”