THE Countess of Chester Hospital has come under the spotlight as pressures on the NHS have been highlighted during the General Election campaign.

The Daily Mirror newspaper highlighted via its Friday, December 6 front page the case of four-year-old pneumonia sufferer Jack Williment-Barr, forced to sleep on the hospital floor due to a shortage of beds at Leeds General Infirmary.

Focus on the story ramped up when Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in a regional TV interview with a reporter showing the photo of Jack on his phone, declined to look at the much-publicised image and instead took the reporter's phone and put it in his pocket.

Mr Johnson belatedly apologised for the situation afterwards, while Dr Yvette Oade, Chief Medical Officer at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, gave a full apology to Jack's family.

Since then, the Daily Mirror has highlighted the case of nine-month-old Lily, who had to wait on a chair for hours at the Countess of Chester Hospital.

Mum Louise Webb, 23, of Ellesmere Port, told the Mirror Lily, who had been taken to the hospital after she deteriorated following weeks of illness, was suffering from an ear infection, vomiting, diarrhoea and was badly dehydrated.

But, she added, they had to wait several hours overnight to be seen by a doctor on Wednesday, December 4.

Louise added she did not blame the hospital staff, but a lack of funding and nurses imposed by ongoing austerity cuts.

After the story made the Mirror's front page on Tuesday, December 10, the Countess of Chester Hospital has issued a statement responding to the circumstances of the Webb family's visit.

CoCH chief executive Dr Susan Gilby said: “It is unfortunate that in these circumstances, when a young mum is rightly concerned and worried about the health of her child, the options to gain appropriate assessment out of hours are often not known about.

"When Lily and her parents visited the Countess of Chester last week they were triaged within 10 minutes by a nurse, who assessed Lily’s condition as not being an emergency.

"Lily was then seen by an ED doctor in under three and a half hours and further assessed by a paediatrician within a further two hours who confirmed that she was well enough to return home without further treatment.

"We are confident that Lily’s avoidable attendance at ED was managed within appropriate guidelines. Had Lily required admission, a bed would have been allocated to her in a timely manner.

"We are working closely with our partners in the Integrated Care Partnership (ICP) to make sure that there is appropriate support available to young parents for out-of-hours NHS care and advice.

"We wish Lily and her mother well."

But mum Louise has disputed the hospital's statement, saying it took longer than three and a half hours for Lily to be seen by a doctor.

Speaking to the Standard, Louise said she went into the hospital at about 12.30am and Lily was seen by a nurse, and they were taken to the Kids Zone at 12.45am.

But then Lily was not seen by a doctor until just before 6am.

A Whatsapp message sent by Louise to a relative - seen by the Standard - at 6.01am reads: "Still here just been seen, Lily may have to be admitted to children's ward."

A subsequent message, sent by Louise at 6.47am, reads: "And now we're having to wait around for a pediatrician before she can be admitted, it's ridiculous."

Louise added Lily was then seen by the pediatrician at 7am, and after collecting medication left the hospital at about 8.20am.

She added: "I would have nothing to gain by lying about this. I didn't do it for the election - if this had happened next week I would've told about it because it needs to be shown, it's not uncommon.

"It's not acceptable - there are no beds, it's not good enough and something has got to change.

"As a mum I want to do everything possible for my child. My daughter had been to see the GP six times in the previous four weeks and was given antibiotics twice, but then she got worse.

"I don't fault the staff at the hospital, it's the lack of funding." 

  • Tory Health Secretary Matt Hancock had visited the Countess of Chester Hospital the same day as the Webb family's ordeal, as part of General Election campaigning.

The Standard was not invited to meet Mr Hancock.