A RETIRED general practitioner has spoken out about the pressures the A&E department in Carlisle are facing after his experience there.

David Wheeler, 76, from High Bridge near Dalston was forced to use the service last year after falling ill in December.

He explained: “I developed severe, acute, symptoms, signs of an emergency, had I been my GP I would have admitted myself to an acute surgical ward. But that doesn’t happen anymore. You have to ring 111 and 111 is just a boy with a computer. It is useless.”

Mr Wheeler rang the 111 system, described his symptoms and was told he would get a call back within a hour.

After waiting over an hour and his symptoms getting significantly worse he called back and went through the same system.

“He said ok we will bring you from an six hour response to two hour. I said that is no good and asked what my options were, which were to ring an ambulance or visit the A&E department,” added Mr Wheeler.

“I went to A&E and said I have these severe symptoms and they just told me to take a seat.”

Mr Wheeler waited five hours before he was seen by a surgical registrar which sparked him to discuss the problems of A&E with the head of the department.

He continued: “The problem is A&E is under-resourced. They do not have the staff.

“There is too much load on A&E because there is no out of hours primary care service that works. Computer algorithms that 111 use do not work. What is needed to take this pressure off A&E is a primary care service that works.”

Mr Wheeler has since addressed his concerns with MP John Stevenson as well as writing to the chief executive of the hospital and discussing, at length, the major problems in A&E with the head of the department.

His main aim is to try and improve the services.

A spokesperson for North West Ambulance Service said: “When a call is made to NHS 111, a health advisor will go through a series of questions, using a regulated NHS-created system, to determine the most appropriate response for the symptoms the patient is experiencing.

“Although these questions may not always seem relevant to the patient, they are designed to rule out any serious and life threatening emergencies first.

“NHS 111 is an assessment and signposting service, after the initial set of questions NHS 111 will advise or forward patients onto another health care setting. This can include a call back from a clinician, an ambulance response, advice to attend A&E, your local primary care provider or a referral to an out of hour’s provider. All NHS 111 health advisors endure a robust eight week training programme and induction prior to taking live calls from the public.

“Throughout the entire NHS system pressures have been felt over the winter period, and NHS 111 is no exception to this, on our busiest day over the festive period 12,460 calls were made to the NWAS NHS 111 service from the general public across the North West.

“We ask that the patient contacts our patient safety team so we can look into the care we provided further and address some of their concerns.”

A spokeswoman for North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “In line with hospitals across the country, we are currently experiencing an increase in pressure and we are sorry for any delays. We are trying our utmost to keep this to a minimum however we fully recognise that during particularly busy periods we do have patients waiting for a bed to become free. When a patient is waiting it is important to stress that they are being cared for by our clinical teams. We are grateful to our staff who are working above and beyond to maintain services and provide care to our patients and would appeal to patients and their relatives for their support and understanding where possible at this challenging time.”