A Darlington woman who feared her chest pain could be a fatal blood clot had to wait 11 hours in A&E before she was treated.

Beryl Hankin, 79, from Darlington, is currently undergoing radiotherapy and when she noticed pain in her chest - she went straight to the hospital.

The business owner has had cancer twice in the last two years and has recently finished a course of radiotherapy for issues in her chest in the first week of January.

Beryl noticed pains in her chest while at work, at Guru Boutique on Blackwellgate. The pains got increasingly worse over the course of the day and peaked at 3am the following morning.

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Given Beryl’s history of blood clots in her lungs, she started to worry and thought it best to call 111, as she “knew there’d be a very long wait at A&E.”

111 sent Beryl a priority ambulance and said she must go to A&E. She decided not to wait for the ambulance, and to instead call a friend and get a lift to Darlington Memorial Hospital, arriving at around 7am.

With a waiting time of 11 hours to see a doctor, Beryl was disappointed but not surprised to see roughly 60 people in the waiting area.

“I expected it to be that bad on a Friday or Saturday evening, but this was a weekday at 7am.

“The triage took place within about 30 minutes so that was good. The staff were all very kind. I needed an X-ray to make sure there were no blood clots because I was so worried that could be fatal. I’m not the type to go to the doctor’s or the hospital unless it’s really necessary.

“After three hours, the waiting time went down to seven hours because I think some more doctors had come on duty.

“The scary thing was though, the number of patients never went down. It only went up. I was sitting there and in the end the security man had to ask everyone who wasn’t a patient, or a carer, were asked to leave to make room for other patients. It absolutely makes sense, it’s just a shame that that was necessary.

“Some people in the waiting area were getting a bit edgy and restless with staff but most people were fine. A couple of people got stroppy when they were asked to wear a mask in a medical setting. You don’t really want to see people being rude to staff when they’re doing their job.”

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Dr Neil O'Brien, executive medical director for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB), said: "People needing help in our emergency departments across the region is nearly 30 per cent higher this December than in the same period in 2021.

“This has put enormous pressure on our teams who have had to work incredibly hard to deal with this significant rise in the number of people needing medical attention, with many people presenting with flu, Covid-19 and respiratory conditions. We’ve also had an increase in staff sickness adding further challenges. We really do want to thank all our teams for their dedication in what has been a very challenging time.”

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