Three buses to finally receive medical help

Natalie Butler and her son Leon (SSFM0514261 picture by Walter Neilson)
Natalie Butler and her son Leon (SSFM0514261 picture by Walter Neilson)

A Methil woman and her sick son had to take three buses to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee after a lack of staff meant he couldn’t be admitted to the Vic in Kirkcaldy.

Natalie Butler (26) was told the children’s ward could not admit six-year-old Leon because there was no ear, nose and throat (ENT) staff on call at the weekend. And when she asked about patient transport, she was told there was none.

Leon, a pupil at Aberhill Primary, had been discharged from the hospital just one day previously after an operation to remove his tonsils and adenoids.

But just hours after arriving home, he was complaining of severe pain in his throat and was unable to take medication prescribed by the consultant.

Natalie said: “I phoned the children’s ward for some information as to what I could do but it wasn’t really helpful, so I phoned NHS24 at about 8.00 a.m. and they gave me an appointment for 3.00 p.m. at Glenrothes.”

However, Leon’s condition worsened and when his throat and mouth began to swell up and he was unable to take fluids, Natalie phoned for an ambulance. The paramedic assessed Leon - who has severe asthma - and told her that he had a throat infection.

“He said the best thing was to have a GP come out and prescribe antibiotics,” said Natalie.

But she says when she received a call from the GP, the doctor said house calls were only for people who were housebound and gave her an out-of- hours appointment at Kirkcaldy for 4.10p.m.

A GP checked Leon over and wanted to admit him but was told this was not possible because there was no ENT consultants on call over the weekend.

Natalie was referred to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, and was told there was no patient transport available. They had no choice but to get three buses to take the 35-mile journey between Kirkcaldy and Dundee.

“It’s just ridiculous,” said Natalie. “What would have happened if Leon had collapsed? We were on a bus in the middle of nowhere.”

Leon was eventually admitted to Ninewells and put on a drip because he had not consumed fluids in nearly 20 hours, and while there, Natalie was also told that a note passed on by the GP in Kirkcaldy said the paramedic had stated she had demanded a house call - something she strongly denies.

Natalie has since filed complaints to NHS Fife, NHS 24 and the Scottish Ambulance Service.

Dr Gordon Birnie, NHS Fife associate medical director of acute services, said: “The ENT weekend service provision is a partnership with NHS Tayside and has been in place for almost a decade. NHS Fife previously held ENT emergency clinics on Saturday and Sunday mornings although these were underutilised, often with no patients attending either clinic.

“Working with NHS Tayside has allowed the continuation of services within Fife and has given patients in Fife access to specialised services.

“I am very confident that our staffing levels are sufficient to meet the demands placed on our services, whilst also continuing to provide good quality patient care at weekends.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said they had received Natalie’s complaint and would respond when facts were established.