AN 84-YEAR-OLD woman with a head injury spent 24 hours being treated in ambulances outside the Grange University Hospital.

Judith McConnel, from Crossways near Monmouth, suffered a fall on Monday, February 28, and badly cut her head.

She was originally admitted to the minor injury unit at Nevill Hall Hospital in Abergavenny.

However, at around 4pm, it was decided to transfer her to The Grange University Hospital at Llanfrechfa by ambulance.

Mrs McConnel was treated in different ambulances outside the critical care centre for 24 hours due to a lack of beds - before being moved back to Abergavenny where a bed was finally found.

Her family now want a full apology from Aneurin Bevan University Health Board and an explanation for the delay.

The health board has issued an apology, noting that Mrs McConnel's wait for treatment was "unacceptable".

"This is not the standard of care that we aim to provide to our patients," a spokesperson said.

Mrs McConnel’s son Alex Culpin, from Pontrilas - just over the border in Herefordshire - said he hoped shining a light on his mother's ordeal would “lead to improvements”.

“Even given the Covid situation, how could this happen?” he said.

“Mum said that after the first ambulance arrived in the grounds of the Grange, she was moved into other ambulances several times. I can only guess they must be rotating the ambulances as mobile triage rooms.

“She was taken from an ambulance and given a CT scan but was moved back to the ambulance to spend the night.

"I presume the scan was carefully analysed and the prognosis was that she needed to be watched closely rather than operated on. But I still find it astonishing that a brand-new hospital was unable to give her proper care and offer her a bed for the night.

“The irony is she then had to wait for an ambulance to take her back to Nevill Hall Hospital where she was sat in the first place 24 hours before."

Mr Culpin said that he was told that one of the staff who treated his mother said Monday was "the worst day so far in the short history of the Grange".

However, he said his mother "highlighted the amazing efforts of the Welsh ambulance staff in treating her and keeping her comfortable".

A spokesman for Aneurin Bevan University Health Board said: “We’re very sorry that Mrs McConnel’s family were unhappy with the care she received; this is not the standard of care that we aim to provide to our patients.

“We acknowledge that Mrs McConnel’s wait for a hospital bed, caused by ongoing pressures on our hospital services, was unacceptable and we have apologised and provided an explanation to the family.

“As in other areas of Wales and the UK, the knock-on effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and staff shortages across health and social care prevent the flow of patients through our hospitals which result in long waiting times in our Emergency Department.

“When patients arrive at the ED, they are initially assessed by a nurse and their care is prioritised according to the seriousness of their condition. All patients requiring life-saving treatment are brought straight into our resuscitation department without delay.

“At times when ED staff are caring for people whose lives are in danger, people with less serious conditions may experience longer waits to be seen by a doctor.

“We would like to thank our staff for their hard work in such testing circumstances and to our patients for their understanding at this time.

“In response to the increased demand for our services, the Health Board is working to rapidly recruit more doctors, nurses and other roles to improve waiting times, patient experience, the flow of patients through our hospital system, and the wellbeing of our staff.”

Monmouth MP David Davies, who has raised Mrs McConnel’s case with the health board, described the situation as “absolute chaos”.

“Thankfully Mrs McConnel is in good spirits, if not a little shaken by her ordeal," he said. "But what happened is disgraceful and shows how bad things are.

“I’m worried the Grange hospital was built on the assumption that patients would only be there for a few days. The reality couldn’t be any different, as shown by the lack of bed space and ambulance handover delays.

“This has a knock-on effect because you have ambulances queuing up outside and unable to respond to other emergency calls. It’s a vicious circle."

The Conservative MP said he believed a long-term solution would be to build another site to deal with elective surgery, while in the short term private hospitals could be used for non-urgent procedures to take the pressure off the Grange.

“I understand several health boards in Wales are reducing waiting lists by using private providers for elective surgery," he said.

"Aneurin Bevan University Health Board needs to be willing to do this because we have a growing crisis on our hands at the Grange.

“The blame certainly does not rest with nurses, doctors and paramedics. We are all being let down by those in charge.”