A PENSIONER last night told how he was forced to wait for a bed for 14 hours in A&E in a stark illustration of the winter crisis gripping the NHS.

Raymond Horner, from Bishop Auckland, said he was “shouting in pure agony” in the A&E department at Darlington Memorial Hospital, as staff struggled to cope with the number of patients and the lack of available beds.

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The family of the 84-year-old said the department was “horrendously busy” when they visited just before the New Year, and said patients were having to sit on the floor as they waited to be seen by medical staff.

They also criticised the lack of A&E services at Bishop Auckland Hospital, which they live just a mile away from.

Last night, a spokesperson for County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust apologised for the delays patients have faced, while Bishop Auckland MP Helen Goodman described Mr Horner’s experience as “very distressing”.

Nationally, Prime Minister Theresa May has already apologised for delays to operations and hospital admissions across the country and, yesterday, an 81-year-old woman from Essex was found dead in her house after waiting almost four hours for an ambulance to arrive when she called 999 complaining of chest pains.

Mr Horner, who used to work as a postman, had previously spent a month in hospital after being diagnosed with urosepsis, but returned home before the New Year.

However, he had to return to A&E last Friday at 7pm to have a blocked catheter changed, and had to wait three hours before he could be seen.

Shirley Horner, his sister-in-law, said: “He was in agony – he was shouting and crying and saying he wanted to die.

“We didn’t know what to do to help him – the staff at the hospital were brilliant but they were so overstretched.”

After returning home, Mr Horner had to return to the A&E department at midnight after developing complications, but he then had to wait 14 hours waiting on a trolley before a bed was available.

“Our NHS seems to be in the worst state ever – I used to be a nurse and I think it has changed for the worse," said his sister-in-law.

“An 84-year-old man went through total agony over many hours when it could have been sorted at Bishop Auckland if the services had not been taken away.”

Despite living just a mile away from Bishop Auckland Hospital, the family were still forced to make two trips to the A&E department in Darlington.

“We have a perfectly good hospital on our doorstep and it cannot be used to change a catheter,” said Ms Horner.

“It was a very good hospital but now it is more or less gone.”

Helen Goodman, MP for Bishop Auckland, said: “This is a very distressing experience and the direct result of Tory underfunding of the NHS over seven years.

“The winter spike in demand was totally predictable and could have been prevented had the PM taken the right decisions at budget time before Christmas.

“Cuts to Durham County Council have also left social care in a mess and that has an obvious knock on effect when it comes to older people.”

A spokesperson for County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust said: “County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, like many hospital trusts, is experiencing very high numbers of patients presenting at our emergency departments, as well as a high number of admissions and demand for beds.

“Our staff are working incredibly hard to manage these pressures but the number of patients we are seeing means that there have been longer waits in our emergency departments and in admitting patients to wards.

“We would like to apologise to any patients who have experienced a delay but express our appreciation for the public’s support and understanding while we work to provide safe care during this busy period.”

Earlier this week, hospitals told all but the seriously ill to stay away from A&E departments, and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt apologised after an estimated 55,000 pre-planned and non-urgent operations in England were delayed until the end of the month in a drastic step to free up hospital staff and beds.

NHS staff said they were “fighting a losing battle” and were “not being given the resources to do their job properly”.