Five beds, three hospitals in one week for woman

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The Independent Online

A seriously ill grandmother was moved in and out of five beds at three hospitals in the space of a week, it emerged yesterday. Health campaigners last night described the case as "awful" and "distressing".

Doris Wiltshire, a 68-year-old widow, was even woken up at 3am to be transferred to another hospital only days after undergoing emergency surgery. But after a week of treatment, the pensioner has now been returned to the hospital where she was first admitted.

Mrs Wiltshire was taken to Southampton General Hospital with stomach pains at 11am on 26 February. Doctors found she was suffering from severe peritonitis - inflammation of part of the abdomen - and needed emergency surgery.

The operation took place at 9.30pm and showed Mrs Wiltshire had a perforated bowel. Her daughter, Mrs Tina Longhurst, 36, said a doctor rang her to say her mother might not survive. An upset Mrs Longhurst was then told her mother's intensive care bed was needed and she had to be moved 12 miles to the Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester at 1.30am.

Two days later, on 28 February, Mrs Wiltshire was transferred back to the intensive care unit at the general hospital in Southampton. She stayed there for three days until she was woken at 3am to the Royal South Hants Hospital on 2 March. On 4 March, she was transferred back to Southampton General Hospital where her condition was "comfortable" yesterday.

Mrs Longhurst, of Totton, Hants, said: "I'm furious that mum was shunted around. I have nothing but praise for the doctors and nurses, but I can't believe a gravely ill woman can be disturbed in the night after emergency surgery and moved to a different hospital."

Marilyn Kay, a Southampton NHS Trust spokeswoman, said: "The trust has approved plans to expand our intensive care unit from 18 beds to 34, but it is expensive and we need to find the money for it. It was not an ideal situation, but we found this patient the care she needed and her treatment was successful."

Dr David Bennett, director of intensive care at St George's Hospital in London and a campaigner for more high dependency beds, condemned the case as "awful". He said: "Despite what the politicians say, this is an ongoing problem that will continue until current policy changes. There needs to be a doubling of the number of higher dependency beds."

An Age Concern spokesman said: "It is particularly distressing for an older person to be moved at such short noticeand such upheaval could hinder their recovery."