Cranham woman ‘near to tears’ after 7.5-hour wait with painful tooth infection

Shelley Evans was moved from Harold Wood UTC to Queen's Hospital

Shelley Evans was moved from Harold Wood UTC to Queen's Hospital, equalling a total wait time of around eight hours, and still was not seen - Credit: Shelley Evans / Ken Mears

A 61-year-old woman from Cranham was left unseen for nearly eight hours with a painful tooth infection, an experience which has left her asking: “What on earth is wrong with the system in Havering?” 

Shelley Evans first visited the Harold Wood Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC) at the end of April after having her tooth extracted earlier in the week. 

Despite using salt water to keep it clean and taking painkillers every four hours, a swelling developed from her cheek bone down to her neck, and she decided it needed to be seen.  

She initially called her dental practice, but was told there were no emergency appointments until the following week.  

She then rang 111 and was able to speak to a dental nurse, who told her there were no emergency appointments anywhere in the borough. 

Instead, she was advised to sleep upright and put a cold tea-towel on her face. 

The pain by this point had become increasingly unbearable, and Shelley said she went to the UTC in Harold Wood at about 4pm.

The Harold Wood UTC

The Harold Wood UTC - Credit: Google

After waiting two hours to be triaged, she was then informed there was no GP on-site, and she would have to go to Queen’s Hospital, in Romford - which has a UTC rated ‘requires improvement’. 

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The delays continued through the night, and by 1.30am, Shelley said she “couldn’t take it anymore". 

“I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and the pain had gotten worse.”

She added: “At that point I was near to tears.” 

In the end, Shelley’s husband came and picked her up, and she was lucky to get a cancellation appointment a couple of days later at her dentist. 

However, she said: “I shouldn’t have had to wait that long to be treated. 

“I was very worried that I had an infection which could have turned into sepsis.” 

During the time she was waiting in the hospital, Shelley said the area was “packed”, with it being hard to hear the doctors as they called out patients' names. 

The experience has led her to question if the system is “there for me”, she added. 

The Partnership of East London Co-operatives (PELC), which runs both the Harold Wood UTC and the Queen’s Hospital UTC, was approached for comment. 

This comes after the wait times at King George and Queen’s Hospitals A&Es were found to be among the worst in the country.

Additionally, a recent survey found only half of Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT) staff said they were happy with the standard of care it provides.