Peterborough widow’s emotional warning to stay away from A&E unless you are suffering ‘life threatening’ illness

Peterborough City Hospital
Peterborough City Hospital

A widow whose husband died at Peterborough City Hospital while waiting for an over-worked medic has urged people to stay away from A&E units over Xmas unless they are suffering “life-threatening” illness.

Sharon Donnelly’s husband John, 51, was admitted to the hospital earlier this year after falling ill.

An emergency doctor at the hospital was treating between 60 and 70 people and “had to prioritise’ at the time.

The hospital was on “black alert” at the time he was admitted and some staff were unable to get to work due to the snowy conditions, Huntingdon Coroner’s court heard

Mrs Donnelly, who is from Peterborough, told the hearing: “My husband stood no chance in A&E that night - he was dumped in the corridor.

“If people that went there needlessly had stayed away, he may have stood a chance.”

Mrs Donnelly said staff were “overwhelmed” and she did not blame the “overworked and understaffed” NHS for her husband’s death.

Mr and Mrs Donnelly were married for 22 years and she described him as “my world”.

She said her husband supported her through cancer, two separate mastectomies in three years and helped manage her type 1 diabetes.

She said her husband “got her through hell and back”.

Mrs Donnelly added “the only thing I can do positively for his memory” is ask for people “to stay away from A&E over Christmas - and forever - unless it’s life-threatening”.

Emergency medicine consultant Dhakshinamoorthy Vijayasankar told the inquest that he was treating between 60 and 70 patients and “had to prioritise”.

Mr Donnelly had an aortic dissection, which is a tear in the artery carrying blood away from the heart when he arrived at the hospital on March 2.

The inquest heard that an X-ray had been ordered but was delayed.

Assistant coroner Rosamund Rhodes-Kemp said it was not possible to say whether this made a difference to the outcome.

She added aortic dissection was difficult to diagnose and Mr Donnelly had no previous history of the condition.

The coroner ruled Mr Donnelly died of natural causes.

Dr Kanchan Rege, Medical Director for North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Peterborough City, Hinchingbrooke and Stamford and Rutland Hospitals, said: “We would like to express our sincere condolences to the family for their loss.

“Mr Donnelly’s death was investigated thoroughly by the Trust and the findings were presented at the inquest. After hearing evidence from a number of witnesses the Coroner arrived at a conclusion of death due to natural causes.

“The beginning of March was a particularly busy period for our hospitals due to severe weather conditions and unprecedented demand. However, staff in the Emergency Department will always prioritise patients accordingly to ensure patients needing urgent treatment are seen quickly.

“We always encourage patients to seek treatment from the most appropriate care facility and only use emergency departments in the event of an emergency. If you require non-urgent care there are alternative services available, such as local minor injury units, your GP and pharmacies. The NHS 111 phone service is also available for those who are unsure about what service to use. Depending on the situation, they will be able to connect you to a nurse, an emergency dentist or a GP.”