A DISABLED woman was forced to wait 18 hours on a hospital trolley for a bed as the NHS comes under growing winter pressures.

Gill Ross, from Kendal, was taken to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary by ambulance suffering with blistering and bleeding sores caused by a serious skin condition.

Her husband John said there was six ambulances queuing outside the hospital when they arrived at 6pm - and that it was not until noon the following day that the 66-year-old was moved to a bed.

“You do not sleep on trolleys”, said Mr Ross, of Kent Court, on Kirkland. “They are there to push people around and get them from A to B. Not to sleep on.”

It comes in the week that health secretary Jeremy Hunt gave an emergency statement to the House of Commons, partly in response to the British Red Cross’s concerns that there was a ‘humanitarian crisis’ in the NHS.

Figures from NHS Digital revealed that between 2015-16 more than two million A&E visits lasted for more than four hours and one minute, in comparison to 1,638,058 between 2014-2015.

And since July 2016 the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT), which runs hospitals in Barrow, Kendal and Lancaster, has sent out 12 press releases urging the public to stay away from A&E unless it is a genuine emergency, as well as putting out regular messages on social media.

Foluke Ajayi, chief operating officer for UHMBT, said this week it had put additional consultants, registered nurses and support staff in the emergency departments at the RLI and Furness General Hospital (FGH) to help triage and treat patients.

Mrs Ross was taken to the hospital last Tuesday after a nurse at home rang her GP who advised the couple to go.

“I asked the ambulance crew to put her on a trolley,” said Mr Ross, also 66. “It was no good her sitting because all underneath her knees would crack.”

However, when Mr Ross left his wife, who has suffered from epilepsy since she was 15, at 2.30am to get some sleep, she was still waiting on the trolley.

“You’re there and you get tired. You start wondering if you’re going to be there for breakfast. It was sad really for people to have to wait for beds, that’s what got me.”

Mr Ross, whose wife of 40 years is still in hospital, said screened cubicles were all taken up with patients - including Mrs Ross - and that there were people on trolleys in the corridors.

“The doctors and nurses are very good, they work very hard. But there was not enough staff,” he said. “They need more staff and they need more beds.”

Mr Hunt said the NHS had been ‘under sustained pressure’ for a number of years.

“In just six years the number of people over 80 has risen by 340,000 and life expectancy has risen by 12 months,” Mr Hunt said in the House of Commons. “As a result, demand is unprecedented. The Tuesday after Christmas was the busiest day in the history of the NHS and some hospitals are reporting that A&E attendances are up to 30 per cent higher compared to last year.”

He said the Government was committed to ‘maintaining and delivering’ a four-hour commitment to patients.

“So, if we are to protect our four-hour standard, we need to be clear it is a promise to sort out all urgent health problems within four hours, but not all health problems, however minor,” he said.

However, MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale Tim Farron said ‘downgrading’ the four-hour target was not the answer.

“Instead of downgrading the four-hour target, the Conservative government should invest in an Urgent Care Centre at Westmorland General Hospital to relieve pressure elsewhere,” he said.

“Our NHS urgently needs more funding, yet the Government is trying to cut millions, cancel operations, and drag doctors away from their duties to make things add up.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said that it was delivering a ‘safer seven day NHS’ and had invested £10bn to fund its plans to ‘transform services in the future and reduce pressure on hospitals’.

Mr Farron also highlighted that ambulances were being forced to wait hours to drop patients off at RLI.

In December, 71 ambulances had to wait more than an hour to handover at the RLI, with one having to wait for three hours and 46 minutes.

Ms Ajayi said when a patient was brought to A&E the aim was to have them seen within 15 minutes.

“Our average handover time for December was just under 22 minutes,” she said. “But as our hospitals, along with many others across the country, continue to be under significant pressure, this can unfortunately mean that sometimes patients can wait longer than usual to be handed over from a paramedic,” she said.

Mr Ross agreed with Mr Farron the hospital in Kendal could be put to better use.

“We have got a lovely hospital here in Kendal and we go to Lancaster and there is no beds,” he said. “Gill was very distraught. It was nice to see her in a bed. That’s where she needed to be.”

Ms Ajayi apologised to the couple, adding: “We know that this is not an ideal situation for patients who need admitting to hospital or our staff so we are working hard with our partners across health and social care to do all we can.

“We are also reviewing all our sites and facilities in the community to identify any beds that we may be able to move clinically appropriate patients into.”