Waiting rooms and Corridors

Now, I am well aware that we only ever see the numerator when it comes to ‘bad practice’, and there are hundreds if not thousands of clinicians who are superb at what they do. Nonetheless, here follows some rather worrying tales.

At least two years ago, while I was stationed in the city, my crew mate and I received details of an emergency at a Doctor’s Surgery, in a small town about 6 miles away. We were informed it was a 7 year old male who was short of breath, possibly with pneumonia.

On go the blue lights and we weave our way through the busy rush hour traffic. I was in the passenger seat, which means that this would be my patient. I begin looking at drug calculations for a child of 7 incase we need to administer anything on the way to the hospital.

We arrive in good time and walk into the heaving surgery. A receptionist spots us over the melee of people cuing and points us to a door the other side of the waiting room.

“Excuse me please”, my crew mate says to the crowd in order to make a path. People stare at us with confused looks on their faces. What are they doing here is what they’re probably thinking.

-Sometimes, people visit their GP with problems that need to be managed in a hospital, not a Doctor’s office, so need admitting to hospital. If it is serious enough, the GP will call for an ambulance.

We are lead through a maze of corridors until we see a lady sat on a chair outside the Doctor’s exam room, holding the greyest, floppiest child I have ever seen. He looked so unwell I genuinely didn’t know what to do first!

With that, the Doctor opened her door, gave us a referral letter and started to tell us what had happened. Before she even finished, my crew mate grabbed the child from the mother’s arms and marched to the ambulance.

As I’m not yet a qualified Paramedic, I am not allowed to give certain drugs, and in cases where someone is VERY unwell or likely to deteriorate, the Paramedic must always attend the patient. As such, I was given the keys, with the command of “GO!”

As I blue lighted this poor child and distraught mother to A&E, my crew mate administers Oxygen and a cocktail of drugs to try to stop his lungs from failing. We arrived in A&E and handed over to a team of waiting Doctors and Consultants (as we had rang ahead) who began treating the child.

The most shocking thing to come out of that story, was that the GP had let the patient sit in a corridor with the door shut while they waited for us. His oxygen levels were in his boots, his respiratory rate was sky high and he was barely conscious. He hadn’t been given any drugs, any oxygen and was not on any sort of monitoring when we arrived. But at least we had a lovely typed referral letter from the Doc. Cheers Doc!

If we were delayed in getting there, for whatever reason, or if we had had to travel from further afield, that child may have stopped breathing in that corridor!

This isn’ the first time I’ve picked up very unwell people from GP surgeries who have been sat in the waiting room or corridor, holding the all important letter. It beggars belief!!

Now, of course, I see plenty of very good Doctors who have given necessary drugs, performed appropriate diagnostic tests and monitored the patient’s vital signs prior to the ambulance arriving, and I am always very thankful to them. But it’s basic stuff surely?

A complaint was made by my crew mate, but the GP registering body is almost bulletproof.

My advice is such – if you go to your Doctor and they decide to call you an ambulance, insist that you stay in their room with them. Don’t be told to wait in the corridor with a possible heart attack or breathing problems (yes, I have seen this).

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