Woman claims A&E closure put her life at risk

Julie Rigg.
Julie Rigg.

A WOMAN claims she lay screaming in panic fearing for her life in the back of an ambulance – but was turned away from the One Life medical centre in Hartlepool.

Julie Rigg suffers from a condition which means her veins split at any time, leaving her bleeding uncontrollably – putting her life at risk.

She dialled 999 for an ambulance after her latest episode and paramedics were told to take her to One Life Hartlepool for treatment.

But when she arrived at the Park Road centre, Julie claims she was turned away.

Julie claims paramedics debated with centre staff as she lay rapidly losing blood, before a crew member took the decision to rush her to the University Hospital of North Tees 15 miles away.

She was eventually treated 45 minutes later.

Julie, 30, said: “This could have cost me my life.”

When Julie has suffered similar bleeds in the past she has always been taken to the University Hospital of Hartlepool’s accident and emergency unit and treated within minutes.

But on August 3 she had her latest bleed in her ankle, the day after the controversial closure of the town’s A&E.

After paramedics arrived at her home in Macauley Road, they had to ring control room bosses for advice where to take her.

They were told to take her to One Life.

But when they arrived, Julie claims the crew were told they were in the wrong place.

All the while, terrified Julie was left in the back of the ambulance screaming and crying, with a second paramedic gripping Julie’s leg in a bid to stem the bleeding and ultimately save her life.

Paramedics eventually took the decision to take Julie to the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, by blue light as she had lost so much blood.

Once she was there, a doctor had to stitch the vein after all other attempts to stop the blood failed.

Today Julie, a former Brierton School pupil, slammed health bosses but added: “The paramedics were fantastic and couldn’t have done any more. But if they don’t know where to go then the average person on the street has got no chance. I’ve had this condition for a while and I’ve always been told to ring 999 and be taken straight to hospital because it could be life threatening.

“To be taken to one place and then be turned away, only to have to travel all the way out of town to be seen to is horrendous. I was hyperventilating with panic and screaming, I felt physically sick, helpless, and scared for my life lying in the back of that ambulance.”

Julie, who does not work due to her condition, added: “When this has happened before I was at our hospital within minutes. This time it took 45 minutes after having been round the houses. It could have cost me my life.”

A spokeswoman for North-East Ambulance service confirmed they answered Julie’s call at 8.33pm and arrived at her home in three minutes.

The ambulance got to the One Life at 8.59pm and were back on the road with Julie on board four minutes later.

The spokeswoman added: “On the advice of One Life, the ambulance, with Mrs Rigg, headed to the University Hospital of North Tees, where she was treated.”

David Emerton, medical director for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said: “While many minor injuries can safely and effectively be treated at One Life, each case is clinically assessed on arrival and if the condition is considered to require more specialist care the patient will be transferred.

“There will always be instances when initial information suggests that the patient can be treated at the minor injuries unit, however, if after further assessment it is considered more appropriate then transfer of the patient to more specialist care will be arranged.

“This routinely happens in all services and we are very sorry that Mrs Rigg feels let down by her care. We are investigating the incident and would be very happy to speak to Mrs Rigg.”