AN 84-year-old woman with a head injury spent 24 hours being treated in ambulances outside Gwent’s new flagship hospital.

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

She was originally admitted to the minor injury unit at Nevill Hall Hospital in Abergavenny. But at around 4:00pm, it was decided to transfer her to The Grange University Hospital at Llanfrechfa by ambulance.

Mrs McConnel was treated in different ambulances outside the £350m specialist and critical care centre for a total of 24 hours due to a lack of beds - before being moved back to Abergavenny where a bed was finally found.

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

Mrs McConnel’s son Alex Culpin, from Pen-Y-Lan Farm in Pontrilas, said he hoped shining a light on his mum’s ordeal would “lead to improvements”.

“Even given the Covid situation, how could this happen?” said the award-winning cider maker.

“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!

“One of the staff that treated her said Monday was the worst day so far in the short history of the Grange with regard to poor performance. She of course highlighted the amazing efforts of the Welsh ambulance staff in treating her and keeping her comfortable.”

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. But what happened is disgraceful and shows how bad things are,” he said.

“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 long-term solution is to build another site to deal with elective surgery. The short-term solution is to follow the lead of other health boards and use private hospitals to deal with elective surgery so there is more room for patients coming in as emergencies.

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

Monmouth MP, David TC Davies

Mr Culpin said he believed it was important to “shine a bit of a light” on incidents like this so “things will improve”.

“What we are really after is for someone in senior management at the Grange to be completely aware of mum’s ordeal and to give us an apology, and for all the parties responsible to come together and work very hard to avoid any future patient catastrophes,” he added.