AN investigation is under way at NHS Borders over the treatment – or lack of it – given to a retired teacher who developed an agonising dental abscess while visiting the region last month.
Paul Scott has lodged complaints with the health authority and the emergency out-of-hours service NHS 24 after his golfing break with three friends from Yorkshire turned into a nightmare.
He claims he was refused painkillers and antibiotics when he presented himself at the accident and emergency (A&E) department of the Borders General Hospital where, he alleges, a doctor declined to examine him.
And, despite his face having swollen markedly, Mr Scott says he was eventually asked to leave.
It was only back at his home in Yorkshire two days later that he was given antibiotics and told of the potential dangers he had faced.
“I learned that if the infection had spread to my eye it could have been very serious and, worse still, problems originating in the mouth, such as an abscess, have been proved to cause heart attacks.”
Mr Scott’s party had checked into a Galashiels guest house, having booked to play six rounds of golf on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, May 9, 10 and 11.
During the first of his two Monday rounds at Peebles, Mr Scott, 60, noticed his gum had started to swell and he felt pain in a tooth.
“By the time we finished playing at 6.30pm, the left side of my face was quite swollen and the pain was unbearable … an abscess had obviously developed and the infection was increasing,” he recalled.
Mr Scott was the only one of his party insured to drive their vehicle back to Galashiels where there was no pharmacy open, so he telephoned his wife, who is a nurse, at the family home in Withernsea.
“She suggested I find an A&E department at a hospital as I was obviously in need of antibiotics.”
At the BGH, Mr Scott says he was told he could not be helped there but had to telephone NHS 24. A woman, who he thinks may have been a receptionist, advised that his problem was a dental one and no dentist was present at that time.
“Another lady in a blue uniform mentioned to the first lady that I might be given some pain relief, but this was ignored,” claimed Mr Scott. “I explained no dentist would treat me anyway until the infection had cleared up and all I needed was some painkillers and antibiotics.”
He rang the NHS 24 helpline from the hospital reception, but was advised to contact the English health advice service NHS Direct because he was not registered with a doctor in Scotland.
“The person I spoke to expressed incredulity that neither the BGH nor NHS 24 would help me and asked her supervisor what I should do. She told me to ring NHS 24 back and explain they had to take my details.
“I did so and was asked a number of questions by a dental care representative who was concerned about the infection reaching my eye.
“She put me on hold and later told me to return to A&E where they would now help me.
“Back at the desk, I was asked what was the problem with my eye. I said my eye was having no problem at that point, although the swelling was getting closer to it. I stressed that the pain and swelling were increasing rapidly.
“I was asked to go to the waiting room and, after some time, the lady I believed was a receptionist told me the doctor would not see me and had actually said to her, and I quote: ‘For him [the doctor] to treat me would be like a plumber doing your electrics’.
“She added that NHS 24’s dental care representative should not have told me to go to the hospital. I reminded her that I was already in the hospital and that she herself had told me to ring NHS 24.
“She remained adamant that I should not be seen and I was asked to leave the hospital and told that someone from NHS 24 would call me on my mobile phone. I never did get a call back from NHS 24 and left the hospital in extreme pain with an increasing infection.”
Back in Galashiels, Mr Scott bought some supermarket painkillers and the following day, Tuesday, contacted his dentist in East Yorkshire asking him to have a prescription for antibiotics ready to collect when he returned on Wednesday.
“My face swelled to alarming proportions on Tuesday … I was running a high temperature and had become badly dehydrated by the time I got home on Wednesday night.
“I understand that it is hospital protocol not to deal with dental problems without a dentist in attendance, but at the BGH they should have known of the more serious dangers in allowing the infection to spread and acted accordingly. Yet nobody, not even the doctor, took the time to ascertain how severe the infection was.
“The hospital staff seemed uncaring and unconcerned about my situation and were quite happy to let me suffer.
“All of this marred what should have been an outstanding week in a very beautiful part of the country … it leaves me feeling angry and disappointed.”
Since lodging his complaints, Mr Scott said he had received an apology from Shona Lawrence, patient affairs manager with NHS24, which is undertaking a full enquiry, passing on its response to NHS Borders which would send him a finding.
On May 17, Mr Scott received a letter from Susan Cowe, complaints officer at NHS Borders, telling him an investigation had started with special regard to his lack of treatment and the attitude of staff.
In a statement yesterday, Calum Campbell, chief executive of NHS Borders, said: “We are in the process of investigating Mr Scott’s complaint about his treatment at the BGH. Once the investigation is complete, we will inform Mr Scott of the outcome and any actions we may be taking.
“We are unable to comment further until this investigation has been completed.”