A member of the East of England Ambulance Trust (who has since resigned) gave undercover video footage of Watford General Hospital’s emergency department which will be aired in an episode of ‘Dispatches’ on Thursday 9 March on Channel 4.
A consultant is seen discussing the situation with the patient. One of his arteries is “completely blocked”, the doctor explains. “The heart function is not very good at the moment I’m afraid.” They could try a procedure, but he explains: “I think it’s 50:50 if we’re going to do harm or good, quite honestly.”
The tragedy of this situation began to dawn on Waterhouse. The man was awake and chatting with the consultant apparently without too much concern, perhaps thinking things weren’t too bad – but in his chest was a ticking time bomb.
“I knew in that moment that he was saying to that patient: ultimately you’re not going to survive this,” the medic tells i. “I strongly suspect that the patient didn’t really understand. He didn’t get it. He actually asked at one point: ‘What happens, should I go home and come back when I’m feeling better?’ The consultant says: ‘No, you’re not going home like this.’”
A short time later, the patient died.
A West Herts NHS Trust spokesperson said, “We saw unprecedented demand for urgent and emergency services over the winter, seeing around 500 patients daily. Like many NHS hospitals, the pressures were compounded by a peak in flu as well as still managing Covid cases. We were caring for a large number of seriously ill patients.
Emergency care patients are treated in order of clinical priority, and this can mean long waits for those whose injury or illness does not require urgent attention. We monitor patients whilst they are waiting to ensure they are safe and have had pain relief and hydration if needed.
Levels of nitrous oxide in the maternity suite of Watford General Hospital have exceeded the legal limits during peak periods.
An investigation conducted by the BBC using Freedom of Information data has revealed that the Air monitoring conducted in February 2022 showed levels of nearly 5,000 parts per million (ppm), which is 50 times higher than what is considered safe. The hospital trust has confirmed that it has taken action by installing machines to remove the gas.
The incident at Watford General Hospital is one of several instances involving nitrous oxide reported by NHS trusts in the UK to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
This has led to a string of NHS trusts suspending the use of Entonox (nitrous oxide and air mix) to relieve pain in child birth.
Harlow hospital has stated that the risk to women giving birth and visitors from nitrous oxide in their maternity unit is negligible, as the exposure is short-term and the effects pass quickly. However, the hospital staff who work in the affected areas are facing uncertainty as they spend prolonged periods of time in these areas and are particularly concerned about the risk of Vitamin B deficiency resulting from exposure to the gas.
West Herts Hospital responded, “We have never suspended the use of Entonox and have been carefully monitoring nitrous oxide levels since we became aware of the issue in October 2021.
The infrastructure of our estate means we cannot put a mechanical ventilation system in place but we have installed machines which effectively remove waste anaesthetic gas from delivery rooms ensuring safety for our patients and staff.”