Sick people are declining treatment because they do not want to face the “traumatising” conditions in hospital emergency departments, according to a Yorkshire GP.
Dr Helena Ebbs, a GP partner in Pickering, said she knew of patients who were effectively shortening their lives rather than facing waiting on trolleys for 18 hours.
The stark comments were made at the final meeting of the Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) governing body, who organise the delivery of health services in the region.
The emergency departments in York and Scarborough are now seeing an “unprecedented” number of people waiting more than 12 hours on trolleys, according to executive director of quality and nursing Michelle Carrington, with some lasting as long as 30 hours.
The CCG governors met the day after the board of the York and Scarborough Hospitals NHS Trust, where health chiefs heard the “fundamental basics” of care were being affected by staff shortages.
Dr Helena Ebbs, a GP partner in Pickering, said she knew of patients who did not want to go to hospital, including one with heart failure.
She said: “Pre-vaccination, they absolutely would not have wanted to go to hospital for fear of catching Covid. Now, because they have two or three admissions, their reason for not wanting to go to hospital is because they can’t bear the thought of being on a trolley in A&E for 18 hours.
“People are making choices not to receive care, which is shortening their lives – effectively choosing to take end of life care rather than go through something that they find so deeply traumatising.”
Ambulance handover times at York Hospital are also an outlier compared to elsewhere in the region, though other pressures are reflected nationally across the health service.
Strict Covid infection control measures mean around 150 beds in York and 50 in Scarborough are closed and the trust has more Covid patients in hospital than ever before, with more than half testing positive after arriving.
Hospital bosses have been hoping for new national guidance to allow them more flexibility in dealing with the pandemic in their buildings.
The Care Quality Commission made an unannounced visit to the emergency departments at York and Scarborough this week, likely because of data which shows they are “struggling”, Ms Carrington said.
Phil Mettam, accountable officer at the CCG, said staff being off with Covid or caring for people with Covid were putting huge pressure on the NHS trust.
He said: “As an organisation they’ve been at their highest escalation level for I can’t remember how many weeks now – that used to be an exception but in recent weeks it’s become the norm.
“It’s just an indication of the pressure across all of the system – general practice and primary care is seeing the same.”
It was the last meeting of the CCG governing body as NHS reorganisation means the new Humber, Coast and Vale Integrated Care System will take over in the summer.
ICSs are partnerships that bring together providers and commissioners to plan NHS health and care services.