An injured woman with mobility problems was left stranded at a hospital late at night because she did not meet new NHS criteria for transport home.
Lisa Collins, who suffers from a condition that causes her knees to dislocate without warning, had been promised a taxi home from South Tyneside District Hospital when she needed treatment for an eye injury.
But, when she came to be discharged, the 22-year-old, from Westoe, South Shields, was told to make her own way home, despite wearing an eyepatch.
Ms Collins, who has undergone several operations to her legs, said:
“It was 2.30am and they expected me to walk home in the dark by myself, only being able to see out of one eye.”
The customer service advisor had hurt herself earlier in the day when her cat accidentally scratched her in the eye with his claw.
She developed an infection and called the non-emergency 111 number at 9.15pm for advice when the pain became unbearable and her vision started to blur.
She says she was told to go straight to hospital.
“I told them I was going to have to wait until the morning when I could get the bus. She said ‘we’ll sort you out a taxi there and back’.
“I said I don’t need one to get there, I could get the bus, but I would need one to get one back and they said that was OK.”
Ms Collins arrived at the hospital, in Harton Lane, at 9.30pm. Just under two hours later, after being given eye drops and an eye patch, she was discharged with a special cream and a course of antibiotics.
“It was 11.45pm so I had missed my last bus. I went to the front desk and said I was ready to get my taxi.
“That’s when the woman said I didn’t meet the criteria, saying ‘you have to be older than 65’.
“She said ‘you are young enough to get yourself home. It’s your responsibility.”
Ms Collins added:
“I told her I have mobility problems and asked her to check my medical record, but she refused.
“I live on my own. I was very upset and it made the pain in my eye a lot worse. I was crying and I had to take the bandage off, as it was wet.
“I said ‘there is no way I can get home at 1am’. I had no money. I wouldn’t get paid for another week.”
Miss Collins was then told she could have transport, but it would take up to nine hours as her case was classed as ‘non-urgent’
Her father, who lives on the other side of Newcastle, eventually managed to contact a taxi firm willing to pick her up, with him paying the fare the following day, and Miss Collins finally got home shortly before 3am.
She added: “I pay my taxes and feel the NHS has really failed me.”
South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Steve Williamson said:
“We are sorry Ms Collins feels that our receptionist was rude.
“Our staff are trained to be professional and courteous at all times. If she would like to contact us, we would be very happy to look into her concerns.”
A North East Ambulance Service spokeswoman said:
“We transported this patient to South Tyneside Hospital and return transport was booked for her by the hospital.
“Due to demand elsewhere, it appears the patient preferred not to wait until transport became available, and made her own way home after the hospital cancelled her transport booking.
“Ambulances are prioritised according to clinical need and the most critically ill people will receive resources first. Unfortunately sometimes this means that some people have to wait longer.
“Where possible, we encourage patients to prepare to make their own way home from hospital so that resources are available for greater emergencies.”
Source – Shields Gazette, 24 Nov 2014