Page last updated at 20:09 GMT, Wednesday, 31 December 2008

A&E death man 'waited too long'

Medway Maritime Hospital
Stewart Fleming attended the A&E unit with a suspected viral infection

The head of a health trust has said a patient who died after being delayed in a Kent A&E department for several hours had waited too long.

Stewart Fleming, 37, visited the Medway Maritime Hospital with a suspected viral infection on 15 December.

The Medway NHS Foundation Trust has started an inquiry to find out why he waited two hours to see a triage nurse and then five more hours for treatment.

Chief Executive Andy Horn said "seven hours was clearly too long".

The family of Mr Fleming, who was from Rainham, has expressed concern at the way in which his case was handled, saying he had a note from his GP requesting immediate admission.

'Reasonable judgments'

Medway councillor Rehman Chishti wants an independent inquiry to be carried out into Mr Fleming's death.

He said: "I say an independent inquiry is important and if something can come out of this case than let's assure the public that this will never happen again and this is a one-off incident.

"There are excellent doctors and nurses here, however, one has to re-address the procedure that's in place at the moment."

Mr Horn said: "The family is saying that he waited for a long time in the emergency department and I agree with that statement. He did wait too long.

When we have problems it is very difficult for patients to be diverted somewhere else

Andy Horn, chief executive

"There [were] huge numbers of patients to be seen and staff need to make reasonable judgments based on the symptoms and information they are given."

He added: "Seven hours is clearly too long. We try to see patients much quicker than that but waiting doesn't just depend on the patient's signs and symptoms, it depends on how many patients actually attend the emergency departments at one time.

"So if three people or 10 people arrive in a quarter of an hour timescale, that then causes delays. If you only have one person arriving they'll be able to see them very quickly."

Mr Horn added: "Because we're the largest in Kent, when we have problems it is very difficult for patients to be diverted somewhere else.

"So we've got to really work hard to make sure we can better predict when the peaks and flows in patient activity are going to be made, so that we can get the staff on and get the wards opened when required."

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