SOAS gathers scores of patient horror stories

OVER the past several months, since emergency general surgery was suspended at the SWAH in December, community campaign group Save Our Acute Services (SOAS) has been liasing with local patients on their surgery experiences and journeys.

SOAS has recorded scores of these stories, anonymously and in confidence, and has provided the Herald with a summary of each. Some of them are shocking, others are heartbreaking, and most centre on the horrors of having to travel hours for emergency treatment.

“These cases are taken by phone calls, to patients, each made individually by our team – we speak to patients who ask us to talk,” said SOAS.


“They represent experiences. Some are willing to go to the media, others are afraid of the consequences of doing so, but feel they must share with us. We have promised to make them heard.”

Noting the Western Trust had repeatedly stated there had been no problems with the mitigation pathways put in place since the suspension of emergency general surgery, SOAS said “these repeated assurances are what generates many of the stories being reported to us.”

SOAS has recorded over 60 patients stories so far. Below is a general summary of many of these stories, with some examples:

– Many patients, or parents and family members of patients, reported being asked to make their own way to Altnagelvin as no ambulance was available to take them from the SWAH, or the wait for the ambulance would be too long.

– A man in his 90s was brought to SWAH ED by his wife, also in her 90s, for example. She was told it “may be better” to drive him to Altnagelvin herself. She did and they had to wait in new queue at the Derry ED for a further six hours.

– These also included a story of one patient asked to get someone to drive them with suspected appendicitis. Halfway up the road they experienced extreme pain, and on arrival at Altnagelvin their appendix burst.

– Another involved a family member driving their loved one from Fermanagh to Altnagelvin while they were bleeding, using towels in the car to absorb the blood.


– A Western Trust employee told SOAS they were aware patients were being asked to arrange their own transport regularly.

– Many patients also reported being transferred from the ED in SWAH to an extremely busy ED in Altnagelvin, where they were triaged again and faced further long waits, despite the Trust stating SWAH patients would be transferred directly to a ward in Derry.

– A number of others from rural parts of the county spoke of concerns and difficulties caused by the fact they did not have a family member to drive them up, visit them while in hospital, or take them home.

– Several others reported being told to bypass SWAH ED altogether, and to go straight to Altnagelvin ED.

– Some patients reported not being accepted for transfer by Altnagelvin.

– Others told of how their medical notes had been misplaced following their transfer to Altnagelvin.

The Herald has summarised the stories to protect the identity of those involved, and has left out some of the shocking or sensitive details, including cases where the patient sadly passed away.

Have you needed emergency treatment at Altnagelvin in recent times and would like to share your story? If so contact

All stories will be kept strictly anonymous and treated with the utmost sensitivity.

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