A cancer patient recovering from a life-saving operation was forced to sleep in a hospital cupboard due to a bed shortage.
Shocking images show Martyn Wells, 49, from Worcester, lying in the cramped, windowless room after being wheeled into the makeshift ward days after having his stomach removed.
The father-of-four, who had stage four malignant melanoma, went under the knife at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital last Wednesday and claims he was wheeled into the cupboard while he slept.
When he complained to a nurse the next morning, Mr Wells was told the room was classed as a ‘clinical decisioning space’.
Mr Wells, who had a ’15-inch incision’ in his abdomen, tweeted Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt a picture of the ‘broom cupboard’ to highlight the state of the NHS but is yet to receive a response.
The IT manager, whose Facebook post has been shared thousands of times, said: ‘For me, this whole incident encapsulates the issues that we have in the NHS today.’
At the beginning of the year, NHS chiefs demanded radical action to free up beds and medical staff due to casualty units being under ‘extreme and sustained’ pressure with flu cases, with at least 306 related deaths, according to Public Health England.
Cancer patient Martyn Wells was forced to sleep in a hospital cupboard due to a bed shortage
Days after undergoing a life-saving operation to remove his stomach, Mr Wells was left lying in the cramped, windowless room after being wheeled into the makeshift ward while asleep
A spokesman for the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation said placing Mr Wells in the ‘consultant room’ followed protocol to free up beds on wards for more at-need patients
The following day, Mr Wells tweeted Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt about the issue
‘They claimed it was a “clinical decisioning space”‘
Speaking of the incident, Mr Wells said: ‘What on earth is the logic between putting a stage four cancer patient in a broom cupboard? I don’t understand it.
‘The night before, I was told that I might have to be moved from my side ward, because I was waiting for discharge and there were other patients.
‘I told them I’d rather not be moved, as I was on a drip and had just taken a laxative, and didn’t want to be embarrassed by being moved too far away from a toilet.
‘At some point during the night, I must have been moved in there. I woke up in the morning, and was completely disorientated.
He said: ‘I actually woke up to a nurse checking my blood pressure.
‘They claimed that it was a “clinical decisioning space”, but that just seemed to be an attempt to justify putting me in a cupboard. It’s jargon.’
In a post shared thousands of times of Facebook, Mr Wells is seen surrounded by medical supplies, which hospital staff frequently came in to access, shaking their heads in disbelief
On a drip, Mr Wells had to walk 50 metres to the nearest toilet despite being on laxatives
Surrounded by cannulas and stoma bags, Mr Wells called the cupboard a ‘dark haven’
HOW HOSPITALS TACKLED THE CRISIS
- Non-urgent operations and hospital appointments scheduled for January were postponed.
- Cancer operations and time-critical procedures went ahead as planned.
- Hospitals contacted patients to tell them if their appointments were cancelled.
MIXED SEX WARDS
- NHS rules banning mixed sex wards were temporarily lifted to help hospitals use all available beds.
- Usually hospitals are fined £250 every night that a patient has to stay in a mixed ward, however, this was waived.
- Patients could request a move if they had strong objections.
DOCTORS ON THE DOORS
- Consultants whose appointments were cancelled were expected to pitch in by manning the doors of A&E.
- Patients could be questioned by doctors as soon as they arrived at hospital.
- The patients were then told to wait for a full examination, be seen immediately or be given advice and sent home.
‘There seems to be no accountability’
Mr Wells claims that if he had gone into cardiac arrest while in the cupboard he would have died due to staff being unable to reach him in time.
He added: ‘I was told that the nearest toilet was 50 metres up the main corridor, which was no help given that I was on a drip feed and had been given laxatives.
‘Having to stagger down to go the loo was humiliating – it’s an awfully long way to walk for someone that has just had their stomach removed.
‘Somebody came in and gave me my breakfast, but there was no tray table for me to put it on. I had to literally balance it on my lap.
‘There was equipment all up the shelves alongside me, and clinical staff kept coming in to pick things up for other patients.
‘Some of them were apologetic, but others just shook their heads in disbelief. They were embarrassed, that’s the best way to describe it.
He said: ‘I almost feel guilty for complaining because the surgeons that operated on me saved my live.
‘But there must be something very wrong with the system if this is what’s happening to ill people like me.’
Mr Wells added he felt sorry for hospital staff, whose abilities are limited by insufficient funding.
He said: ‘All the time hospitals are having to try to do more for less, and it’s just not working out.
‘There seems to be no accountability, and that’s a crying shame.’
WHAT REGIONS OF THE UK WERE MOST AFFECTED BY THE NHS WINTER CRISIS?
During the NHS winter crisis, certain hospitals declared themselves at the most severe pressure level while doctors warned scores are operating at almost full capacity.
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine warned overcrowding in A&E departments leads to avoidable deaths.
It also cautioned pressure on the health system results in lengthy waits and patients being treated in corridors.
Meanwhile, a number of ambulance services were also under severe pressure, with one even resorting to using taxis to ferry patients to hospital.
The East of England Ambulance Service said that during December 30, 31 and January 1, 13 patients deemed to be ‘low acuity’, meaning they did not require intensive nurse care, were transported to hospital by taxi.
During the first few days of 2018, paramedics working for the trust wasted more than 500 hours waiting outside hospitals admiting patients due to ‘handover delays’.
A number of hospital trusts also declared they were Operational Pressures Escalation Level 4, which means patient care is compromised.
Darent Valley Hospital A&E in Kent, Royal Cornwall Hospital and University Hospitals Of Leicester NHS Trust all said they declared OPEL4 at the end of 2017-beginning of 2018.
Meanwhile, Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group said the health system in the whole county declared OPEL4.
University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust’s medical director Dr John Oxtoby admitted the pressure was severe over Christmas.
Mr Well said he feels guilty complaining but such treatment of patients is unacceptable
Mr Wells asked on Facebook ‘what happened to patient dignity?’, adding the hospital’s justification for keeping him in the room was ‘jargon’ with ‘no accountability’
‘Whatever happened to patient dignity?’
Mr Wells, who was diagnosed with cancer last March, wrote on a Facebook post describing the incident, ‘I woke up in a cupboard. So I lie here typing this, surrounded by cannulas, stoma bags and other accessories.
‘A team of ninja nurses burst into my room in the small hours, told me gently I was being moved and wheeled me into another dark haven.
‘Waking this morning I find my new location is a cupboard.
‘Are things SO bad in our great health service that they have to move stage IV cancer patients into a cupboard? Whatever happened to patient dignity?
‘I’ve been told to use the staff toilet and have no access to any washing facilities.
‘I’m trying hard not to moan as I am genuinely grateful just to be alive but I’ll be glad to get home as there is something very wrong with the bed management in our hospitals.’
Health chiefs defended the decision to put Mr Wells in the room, saying staff followed ‘standard operating procedure for capacity escalation.’
A spokesman for the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation added: ‘We are sorry Mr Wells is unhappy with his situation.
‘The trust has a standard operating procedure for capacity escalation and a full capacity protocol which are strictly followed to ensure the safe care of all of our patients.
‘When a ward reaches maximum capacity a patient who is clinically fit for discharge may be moved into a consultation room to allow another patient with clinical needs to be transferred onto the appropriate ward.
‘The consultation rooms such as the one occupied by Mr Wells are fully equipped clinical areas and are used to support capacity management across the hospital.
‘The dignity and safe care of all of our patients remains our priority.’
Mr Wells is due to walk the length of the River Severn for 10 days in September to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. Donate here.
A Twitter user was in disbelief over how stretched the NHS is for Mr Wells to sleep in a ‘closet’
Another sympathised with the NHS’ ‘unsung heros’ who ‘can only do so much’
PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY FINALLY APOLOGISES FOR THE 55,000 OPERATIONS CANCELLED… A DAY AFTER REFUSING TO ACCEPT THE NHS WAS IN THE MIDST OF A CRISIS
Mrs May finally apologised to patients who faced a delay on January 4
Prime Minister Theresa May finally apologised to patients who faced a delay on January 4, after it was announced 55,000 operations will be postponed.
The unprecedented move to cancel non-urgent procedures to free up beds and frontline staff was made by NHS bosses.
The decision prompted an apology from Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday, following pressure from his critics that he was ‘running scared’.
Mrs May apologised during a visit today to Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey, one of many trusts affected by the NHS move to cancel procedures.
After refusing to accept the NHS was in a crisis the day before, she said: ‘I know it’s difficult, I know it’s frustrating, I know it’s disappointing for people, and I apologise.’
Her comments followed official data which showed record numbers of patients are being forced to wait in ambulances for treatment.
Some 16,900 people were forced to wait for more than 30 minutes in ambulances to be seen by staff at A&E over the Christmas week – the highest total this winter.
Summary of NHS crisis
Research released earlier this month suggested NHS trusts in England were forced to cancel hundreds of cancer operations last winter.
Out of a poll of 81 NHS hospital trusts, 43 postponed at least one cancer surgery between December and February, according to a survey by the Health Service Journal.
Hospitals in England were told to delay pre-planned operations and routine outpatient appointments throughout January to help overcome severe winter pressures.
Yet NHS England stressed cancer operations and time-critical procedures should go ahead as planned. Delays in cancer-patient procedures could affect people’s survival prospects, Macmillan Cancer Support warns.
Up to 55,000 non-urgent operations were postponed until February, along with thousands of outpatient appointments and scans.
Strict rules regarding single-sex wards were waived, while doctors were also expected to man the doors in A&E.
For part of the winter crisis, which lasted from around November to February, Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre was put on ‘black alert’, meaning it was operating at full capacity with no beds left.
During one week a patient arrived at the centre’s A&E every two minutes, prompting 346 operations to be cancelled in January alone.