Anglesey councillor fears diabetic grandson could have died had he waited nine hours for ambulance
Gareth Wyn Williams, local democracy reporter
The plight of a 15 year old boy, who could have died had he waited the nine hours for an ambulance, has been raised as example of “scandalous” response times amidst mounting pressure on the NHS.
Stating his concerns during an Anglesey Council debate, Jeff Evans fears he could have lost his grandson had he not been rushed to hospital after being told than an ambulance would take over eight and a half hours to pick him up from Holyhead.
With Anglesey’s councillors unanimously backing Cllr Evans’ calls for action amid “declining health services,” the Holyhead member claimed the current situation was having a “detrimental effect on the health and well-being of the community.”
Addressing Tuesday’s full council meeting , Cllr Evans recalled this past Sunday’s traumatic events where his 15 year old grandson, who suffers from Type 1 diabetes, was struggling to retain consciousness while trying to get up.
“When Andrew woke up he was collapsing, he was fainting. He was ill, vomiting he had nausea, he had all kinds of different problems.
“My son had to be called from work, they called the ambulance service explaining he was a type one diabetic and it looked like he was going into a coma.
“But they were told an ambulance wouldn’t be able to attend for between eight and a half and nine hours.”
Thankfully Andrew’s father, Cllr Evans’ son, rushed home from work and took him to hospital himself where staff at Ysbyty Gwynedd were waiting with a stretcher to rush him into intensive care.
Describing his condition as “in a hell of a state,” Cllr Evans added, “Examined at hospital they identified all the symptoms of Diabetic Ketoacidosis and high levels of ketones in his blood, his body was shutting down.
“Diabetic Ketoacidosis and a coma is an extremely life threatening condition which can cause a patient to fall into a state of unconsciousness and potential death.
“The coma is reversible if treated immediately, but if left untreated or delayed can result in permanent brain damage and potential death.”
With Andrew’s treatment including an IV supply of insulin as well as nutrients and fluids to rehydrate his body, Cllr Evans added that he was now on “a road to recovery” but expected to remain in hospital “for some time.”
“The specialist told my son that Andrew could and would have died if he had not got to hospital and been treated within two hours.
“The ambulance service wouldn’t have got there for eight and half nine hours and I would lost a grandson and my son, would have lost a son. Its absolutely scandalous.”
Cllr Evans also referred to a separate incident which saw a 77 year old relative, immobile and suffering from other health conditions, left waiting 17 hours for an ambulance while lying on her bathroom floor.
But although keen not to press the blame on any individual nor the hard working NHS staff, he called on councillors to back his motion which included “seeking reassurance and positive action” from the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, Welsh Ambulance Service and Welsh Government in provision of “effective health support services.”
A spokesperson for the Welsh Ambulance Service (WAS) acknowledged that delayed ambulance response times are “a symptom of the pressures across the entire health and social care system,” with delayed discharges from hospitals meaning longer “front door” queues and fewer ambulances being available.
Having written to the WAS’ Chief Executive, Jason Killens, it was confirmed that the handover of patient care to hospitals should take no more than 15 minutes.
But Mr Killens confirmed that ambulances were sitting outside hospitals in the north for an average of two hours and 40 minutes at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, two hours and nine minutes at Ysbyty Gwynedd and one hour and 32 minutes at Ysbyty Maelor.
Responding to Cllr Evans’ motion, Cllr Dylan Rees described his family’s experiences as “disturbing” but that his motion had the full support of patient watchdog, the Community Health Council.
The leader, Cllr Llinos Medi, added, “This is a national problem but I’d like to reassure you that I have already raised your concerns with the chair of the health board and as council leaders via the WLGA.
“There are concerns over pressure on the NHS, heightened during the pandemic.
“We all know people in the NHS who are working to try and make sure it delivers, they are trying their best and I feel we should pay tribute to the individual staff.
“The problem, as Cllr Evans says, is within the structures but those challenges are being looked at.”
Cllr Aled Morris Jones urged people to get vaccinated and to take their booster jabs amid concerns over the “relentless pressure” on health staff, noting it was “sad” that people were refusing to protect themselves and others.
Former ambulance worker, Cllr Trefor Lloyd Hughes, said this was “not a new problem but had grown worse”, adding he was fully supportive of Cllr Evans’ campaign amid a “lack of investment.”
In response Liz Wedley, the Welsh Ambulance Service’s Head of Service in the north of Wales, said: “Delayed ambulance response times are a symptom of the pressures across the entire health and social care system.
“Issues being felt in other parts of NHS Wales, like delayed discharges which can hinder flow through hospitals and lengthen ambulance waits at the ‘front door’ of the Emergency Department, have a direct consequence for us because fewer ambulance are available to respond to patients waiting in the community.
“Coupled with staff absence exacerbated by Covid-19, and a significantly higher volume of calls, our ability to get to patients quickly has been significantly hampered in recent months, and we’re sorry to all of those patients who have had a poor experience, including Cllr Evans’ loved ones.
“We continue to work closely with our Local Health Board and Welsh Government colleagues to try and resolve the system-wide pressures.
“The public can help by only calling 999 in a serious or life-threatening emergency – for everything else, the NHS 111 Wales symptom checkers are the best source of health information and advice.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “The Welsh Ambulance Service, like all NHS services across the UK, is working hard to respond to the ongoing and significant challenges as a result of the pandemic.
“There is an active delivery plan in place to help manage 999 demand in the community, increase capacity, improve responsiveness and improve ambulance patient handover.
“We recently launched a new national programme to improve the flow of patients through the hospital system and return home when they’re ready to do so, alongside £25m in recurrent funding.
“Last month we provided an extra £42m for social care, which will also help to free up hospital beds.”
While Dr Nick Lyons, Executive Medical Director at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, thanked the teams who are “working tirelessly to provide the highest quality of care during these difficult times.”
“Our services remain under pressure and this is leading to significant demand on our emergency services,” he added.
“There remain challenges to discharge patients from hospital to suitable accommodation or care services. This does impact flow through the entire hospital system, and on our ability to bring patients into and through the Emergency Department in a timely manner.
“We are continuing to work with our local authority partners and Welsh Ambulance Service to reduce delayed transfers of care and hospital handovers to improve patient flow in order to release capacity for admissions from the Emergency Departments, and ensure patients receive the best possible care throughout the pandemic and over the winter period.”
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