A senior Tory baroness has revealed she had to wait for nearly five hours on a hospital trolley before a bed was found for her.
Baroness Sharples, 88, a member of the Lords since 1973, gave her account of a stay in London’s St Thomas’ hospital as the government was questioned on its decision to scrap the four-hour target for maximum waits in accident and emergency units.
Speaking outside the chamber, Lady Sharples said she had collapsed after “overdoing it” last month following a knee replacement operation.
“The ambulance came in five minutes but I was in hospital on a trolley from 7.45pm to 12.30am,” she said. “I was in a bay in accident and emergency waiting for them to find a bed.
“I was seen by nurses, who I can’t fault as they had to deal with all the drunks who I could hear. But I wasn’t seen by a doctor until after I had a bed.”
Lady Sharples said she did not reveal she was a member of the Lords, and was released the following day after tests.
Responding to Lady Sharples’s comments at question time on the length of her wait, health minister Earl Howe said: “That does concern me. I don’t think that anyone could endorse the practice of patients remaining on trolleys.
“I hope you were seen and attended to in a timely manner, but what you describe does not sound to me as though it conforms with good clinical practice.
“The figures I have nationally show that hospitals as a whole are adhering to the new standards that have been set.”
Answering claims from Labour’s Baroness McDonagh that A&E waiting times were “rising sharply”, Lord Howe said the A&E target had been replaced “by a set of clinical quality indicators, incorporating measures of timeliness in April”.
He added: “The proportion of patients waiting for less than four hours during the four weeks up to April 24 2011 was 96.7 per cent compared to 98.3 per cent in April 2010.
“Our clear advice from clinicians was the four-hour target should be adjusted to reflect clinical case rates and clinical priorities.”
Cross-bench peer Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, a former president of the Royal Society of Medicine, said: “Until the shortfall of 1,280 A&E consultants is met, the quality indicators will not be met because they require consultant sign off and that they must not be interpreted as rigid targets because of the variability of clinical scenarios.”
Lord Howe said the fact consultants had to sign off on many targets “in itself should encourage consultant capacity over time”.