A 12-year-old boy with severe curvature of the spine was forced to waited 47 weeks for surgery due to the NHS winter crisis.
Known only as Keilan, the youngster, who had an 80-degree backbone, was scheduled for an operation to straighten his spine but the date fell during the period NHS England advised hospitals to postpone non-emergency procedures.
Although operations involving children were meant to be exempt from such cancellations, the high number of patients at Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre, which is where Keilan was treated, meant the youngster’s operation was put back twice.
However the youngster did eventually undergo the five-hour procedure which was filmed for an episode of BBC2 show Hospital, shown last night.
Viewers watched as Keilan, who had a prominent hunchback, grew 2.5 inches and was told he had been cured of his scoliosis.
His moving exit from the hospital after a grueling recovery elicited an emotional response on Twitter from those watching at home.
Viewers also watched as patients endured up to 15-hour waits for a bed, with only ‘genuine emergencies’ being dealt with.
At the beginning of the year, NHS chiefs demanded radical action to free up beds and medical staff due to casualty units being under ‘extreme and sustained’ pressure with flu cases, with at least 306 related deaths, according to Public Health England.
Up to 55,000 non-urgent operations were postponed until February, along with thousands of outpatient appointments and scans.
Strict rules regarding single-sex wards were waived, while doctors were also expected to man the doors in A&E.
For part of the winter crisis, which lasted from around November to February, the Queen’s Medical Centre was put on ‘black alert’, meaning it was operating at full capacity with no beds left.
During one week a patient arrived at A&E every two minutes, prompting 346 operations to be cancelled in January alone.
Keilan, who suffered from severe curvature of the spine, waited 47 weeks for an operation
Keilan, who had an 80-degree backbone, had the procedure delayed amid the winter crisis
In two years, his back became 100 per cent more twisted and his breathing 50 per cent worse
X-rays showed how the curved spine was crushing his ribs and tightening his lung capacity
HOW HOSPITALS TACKLED THE CRISIS
- Non-urgent operations and hospital appointments scheduled for January were postponed.
- Cancer operations and time-critical procedures went ahead as planned.
- Hospitals contacted patients to tell them if their appointments were cancelled.
MIXED SEX WARDS
- NHS rules banning mixed sex wards were temporarily lifted to help hospitals use all available beds.
- Usually hospitals are fined £250 every night that a patient has to stay in a mixed ward, however, this was waived.
- Patients could request a move if they had strong objections.
DOCTORS ON THE DOORS
- Consultants whose appointments were cancelled were expected to pitch in by manning the doors of A&E.
- Patients could be questioned by doctors as soon as they arrived at hospital.
- The patients were then told to wait for a full examination, be seen immediately or be given advice and sent home.
Keilan’s breathing problems meant he needed a bed
Born at just 28 weeks, weighing just over 1.5lbs (600g) and given a 10 per cent chance of survival, Keilan spent the first 19 weeks of his like in an incubator.
Within a few years he started to show signs of scoliosis, which became 100 per cent worse over two years and halved his breathing capacity.
Mike Grevitt, a leading consultant orthopaedic spinal surgeons, told the BBC: ‘Keilan’s spine was so severely bent on one side of his body that his ribs were crowded, which gave him the problems breathing.’
Despite the seriousness of his disorder, it was not considered critical and therefore surgery had to be delayed until a bed was available in paediatric intensive care for Keilan’s recovery.
His father Lee said: ‘I find it very frustrating, living in a no man’s land. You don’t know where you’re going or what you’re doing.’
Keilan, who suffered such extreme anxiety before his scheduled operations he developed insomnia, was keen to get on with his life and faced disappointed both times the operation was postponed.
Mr Grevitt, who described Keilan’s operation as among the most complicated he will do this year, said: ‘It’s a fact that on any winter’s day, there may be only a handful of beds in the country for paediatric critical care.’
When a bed was eventually available, the documentary showed Keilan lying unconscious on his front, with weights being used to pull his spine into position.
Although there were concerns the procedure would have to abandoned when Keilan’s nervous-system activity suggested he was at risk of being paralysed, the surgery was a success.
Keilan’s mother Kelly said: ‘Some people go through their whole life without meeting their hero, I gave birth to mine.’
Keilan’s mother Kelly (pictured with his father Lee) said she was lucky to give birth to her ‘hero’
She added Keilan has always been a ‘fighter’ after being born at just 28 weeks, weighing 1.5lbs
WHAT REGIONS OF THE UK WERE MOST AFFECTED BY THE NHS WINTER CRISIS?
During the NHS winter crisis, certain hospitals declared themselves at the most severe pressure level while doctors warned scores are operating at almost full capacity.
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine warned overcrowding in A&E departments leads to avoidable deaths.
It also cautioned pressure on the health system results in lengthy waits and patients being treated in corridors.
Meanwhile, a number of ambulance services were also under severe pressure, with one even resorting to using taxis to ferry patients to hospital.
The East of England Ambulance Service said that during December 30, 31 and January 1, 13 patients deemed to be ‘low acuity’, meaning they did not require intensive nurse care, were transported to hospital by taxi.
During the first few days of 2018, paramedics working for the trust wasted more than 500 hours waiting outside hospitals admiting patients due to ‘handover delays’.
A number of hospital trusts also declared they were Operational Pressures Escalation Level 4, which means patient care is compromised.
Darent Valley Hospital A&E in Kent, Royal Cornwall Hospital and University Hospitals Of Leicester NHS Trust all said they declared OPEL4 at the end of 2017-beginning of 2018.
Meanwhile, Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group said the health system in the whole county declared OPEL4.
University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust’s medical director Dr John Oxtoby admitted the pressure was severe over Christmas.
Some were moved to tears after watching Keilan leave hospital after an intensive care stay
Keilan’s mother also left viewers ‘in bits’ after she described her son as her ‘hero’
Others who have endured similar surgery sympathised with Keilan’s grueling treatment
One Twitter user described how her spine was once curved 91 degrees, similar to Keilan’s 80
People who work in healthcare expressed how Keilan’s recovery makes their jobs ‘rewarding’
Despite the pressure hospitals endured, Twitter users say they still were able to ‘change lives’
Some added, however, the NHS winter crisis highlights issues that need ‘to be addressed’
Patients waiting 15 hours for a bed
The documentary also showed patients waiting up to 15 hours for beds or to be seen by doctors as medics struggled to cope with the ‘huge influx’ of patients and urged people to stay at home if possible.
At one point the nurse in charge of the A&E department, Claire Reay, can be heard saying: ‘Where there is space, there will be a trolley’.
She added: ‘There are a lot of people who have been waiting all night for a bed and we have more patients coming in. There is no stop button’.
Queen’s director of operations Miriam Duffy is shown talking to staff and telling them to get the message out that only ‘genuine emergencies’ can be dealt with.
She added: ‘We have started the day with 30 people needing beds and we have used all our bed space, so this is uncharted territory for us.’
The show also revealed patients were just as anxious as staff, with one who could not be seen properly, saying: ‘It makes me feel anxious that I can’t see what’s around me, but I know I’m in the middle of a big room with lots of people I don’t know.
‘It’s not dignified, people spending their nights next to random strangers when they are poorly.’
Shocking pictures from inside Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre show dozens of patients lined up on beds in the A&E waiting room in the BBC2 documentary Hospital
The hospital struggled to cope at the height of the winter pressures that hit the NHS in January
PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY FINALLY APOLOGISES FOR THE 55,000 OPERATIONS CANCELLED… A DAY AFTER REFUSING TO ACCEPT THE NHS WAS IN THE MIDST OF A CRISIS
Mrs May finally apologised to patients who faced a delay on January 4
Prime Minister Theresa May finally apologised to patients who faced a delay on January 4, after it was announced 55,000 operations will be postponed.
The unprecedented move to cancel non-urgent procedures to free up beds and frontline staff was made by NHS bosses.
The decision prompted an apology from Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday, following pressure from his critics that he was ‘running scared’.
Mrs May apologised during a visit today to Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey, one of many trusts affected by the NHS move to cancel procedures.
After refusing to accept the NHS was in a crisis the day before, she said: ‘I know it’s difficult, I know it’s frustrating, I know it’s disappointing for people, and I apologise.’
Her comments followed official data which showed record numbers of patients are being forced to wait in ambulances for treatment.
Some 16,900 people were forced to wait for more than 30 minutes in ambulances to be seen by staff at A&E over the Christmas week – the highest total this winter.
Staff felt ‘at a loose end’
In footage from an upcoming episode, cancer surgeon David Grant said: ‘I know in my own practice sometimes a delay in getting someone in the operating theatre could be the difference between life and death.
‘It stings when that happens. These are people, they are not numbers, they are not targets. They are your mothers, your wives, and your children. Treat them like it.’
Meanwhile doctors in other parts of the hospital said they were ‘at a loose end’ because they felt like they should be doing something to help.
Orthopaedic consultant Peter James, who finished his clinical work by 9am, told the documentary: ‘We’re just left largely at a loose end, feeling that we should be doing something to contribute, that we should be working.
‘We are being paid to work and we’re just trying to find something constructive to do.
‘In a hospital like this we are all so specialised as consultants that we can’t make decisions on patients who don’t belong to our speciality because we don’t have the knowledge or expertise.
‘It’s not just me, we have all the theatre staff who will be underutilised; the anaesthetists will be in the same position. The lists are doing down so everyone is finishing early; it is a frustrating time for all.’
Nurse Claire Reay, pictured, told the documentary ‘where there is space, there will be a trolley’
Cancer surgeon David Grant, pictured, said the delays in care of patients ‘could be the difference between life and death’, adding patients are ‘people’, ‘not numbers’, ‘not targets’
Hospital is in its third series on BBC2 and reveals the daily struggles doctors and nurses endure while treating all manner of illnesses and injuries, which hit hard earlier this year
What was the impact of cancelling routine operations?
Last year, winter pressures were described as a humanitarian crisis, however, in 2018, a ‘perfect storm’ of bad weather, a flu outbreak and norovirus have made matters even worse.
The past winter has seen the worst flu season since 2011, with thousands also being affected by norovirus, leading to hundreds of hospital beds being closed every day.
The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) said at least 62,000 fewer NHS treatments, including surgical operations, were performed by consultants this past winter compared to the previous winter.
In trauma and orthopaedics, there was an 8.4 per cent fall in treatments.
RCS added the ‘necessary evil’ of postponing all planned surgery in January to relieve pressure on A&E departments resulted in many patients not receiving treatment when they needed it, ‘extending their time in pain or discomfort’.
HOW MUCH PRESSURE WAS THE NHS UNDER DURING THE ‘HUMANITARIAN CRISIS’ OF 2016?
The NHS endured its worst ever winter crisis, with waiting times, cancelled operations and bed-blocking running at, or near, record levels last year.
Official figures illustrated the scale of the scale of the turmoil to engulf the health service in the face of unprecedented pressures.
Bed-blocking due to a lack of social care places was at a record high with more than 2,500 health patients prevented from leaving hospitals each day – specifically because there is nowhere for them to go.
Statistics from NHS England report also revealed nearly 200,000 patients waited at least four hours in A&E between the winter months of December to February – a five-fold increase from just 41,000 five years previously.
Supporters of the NHS reacted in fury after the Red Cross claimed hospitals were facing a ‘humanitarian crisis’ after its worst week in 15 years
Extreme waiting times also reached record levels, as nearly 2,000 patients were forced to wait at least 12 hours in A&E over the same period.
And cancer referral rates in February were at their second lowest level on record.
Supporters of the NHS reacted in fury after the Red Cross claimed hospitals were facing a ‘humanitarian crisis’ after its worst winter in 15 years.
The charity said it stepped in to help the NHS in England to deal with the increased demand during the winter, but have been hit with criticism accusing them of overstating the issue.
It comes as it emerged that two patients died on trolleys in Worcestershire Royal Hospital’s accident and emergency department in January.