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British Lung Foundation
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Disgusted at treatment in A&E!

I'm a 51 year old otherwise fit and healthy woman who's very active. I've been struggling with sudden shortness of breath for a whole month now. My breathlessness as got s bad and lasted so long that I've become so tired and just felt like giving up. I wanted to die because that's how it made me feel. I've had a lung function test and it was more or less Perfect with my lung age being 2 years older than my real age but I was prescribed a steroid inhaler because my breathing was so bad. I actually noticed the difference after 1 dose!! That's how bad my breathlessness has been. So this suggests adult onset asthma.

Anyway I went to A&E several times before I was prescribed an inhaler because of my chronic shortness of breath and they turned me away everytime. Not one blood test or assessment was done! They go on a pulse ox reading and a bp reading and if you pass these, you basically don't qualify for a second look. My pulse ox was perfect everytime apart from a high pulse. Every bit of information I've read tells you to go on your symptoms and not a piece of equipment stuck on your finger. People compensate for their shortness of breath by overbreathing which raises the oxygen level. It doesn't mean they're ok! I am disgusted how I was treated and made out to be a hypochondriac and told my symptoms were down the anxiety. They like to use the anxiety card for nearly everything. I nearly collapsed at one point. All they had to do was a simple blood test to measure the oxygen in my blood. I just hope no one else as to go through this and made to feel like they're wasting the NHS's time. No faith left in our health service at all!

23 Replies
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Hi Angie SOB is a very scary experience it sounds like asthma u have but if left untreated can be fatal. When u have diagnosis from gp read up all u can on symptoms treatment other people’s experience and be knowledgeable u can then take charge of your condition take care xxx

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A&E is for life threatening emergencies. You should have gone to your own doctor, or an on call doctor if out of hours, for breathlessness.

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Shortness of breath can be acute life threatening heart or lung issues I really think this is bad advice. Only the poster/patient can know how they feel. Often it is only testing that will rule things in or out. I know at least 3 dead people who ignored their heart symptoms, they can be quite non specific. The statistics on the number of people who die of an asthma attack without calling for help are testimony to the fact people are made to feel bad about seeking help to the extent that it kills them. I personally have always had excellent responsive treatment from ambulances A&E and hospital staff (less so my old GP). I suspect that after you are labelled a heart patient they are more cautious but if you get labelled anxious then the opposite might be true and symptoms not investigated fully.

I think medics or not we take care of each other and it’s not our place to diagnose on this forum just share our experience and signpost people to the most appropriate help.

Jo

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I had shortness of breath that had built up over a few weeks and one day I was out of breath with minimal exertion so I had dragged myself into a and e as that's not normal nor is gasping for breath when you are sat down minding your own business.

To be fair a and e were good and I had an arterial blood gases test there and one for blood clots and it turns out I was right to drag myself to a and e as it turned out that I had blood clots in my lungs and that can kill you if left untreated.

I'm well now and on anticoagulants but I was terrified that day there!

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I think you'll find that asthma is a life threatening problem especially with blue lips! And my A&E is the only place where we can go because we don't have a walk in centre anymore and you can't call your gp at 3am in the morning!

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Hi

You really need to speak to GP for a correct diagnosis possible having a Spirometer test. With further test if required.

A pulse oximeter will give the correct levels of O2 in real time, a blood test although gives more information may be returned after the event as subsided.

Aniexty is a real problem and should not be dismissed or ignored it can cause breathing problems or aggravate a existing problem.

My experience of A&E was a packet of antibiotics, and a taxi home.

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Hi Angie, I have been reading your previous posts and see that you have several health problems in addition to your shortness of breath. I understand that you have been waiting to see a cardiologist following an echo which showed brightness around the heart. Although your GP seems to have been doing some form of spirometry test on you and you have been given different inhalers, as far as I understand it you have not been referred to a respiratory specialist. Unfortunately doctors in A&E can only deal with the immediate emergency as it is presented to them. They do not have the time or facilities to investigate underlying conditions. That is not their remit.

It is obvious that you are worried and very distressed by your breathlessness and nobody, least of all your GP is giving you any answers or a way forward.

I suggest that you go to your GP and get them to speed up your cardiac appointment. Also, insist that they refer you to a respiratory specialist for proper tests and diagnosis if this is caused by your lungs. Don’t take no for an answer because it is obvious that your GP is not managing to handle your problems and you need expert help. Good luck

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It's a complete joke. I've been steadily getting more and more ill since last October. I've been under the doctors since then but my symptoms are spiralling out of control and the Grand finale is breathlessness. I'm at the doctors nearly every week asking what can be done. To top it off we have to phone a premium rate number and wait in a queue to get an appointment and it's costing me a fortune. I'm waiting 2 months for appointments to see specialists and not one medically trained person as given me any answers as to why my health as gone down the pan. I wasn't breathless all the time up until a month ago but now I am and I've endured this for a month even though they're supposed to be helping me. I've had to go on the sick because There's no way I can work at the moment feeling like this

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I really feel for you angie. I got increasingly breathless over two years. My GP kept thinking I had an exacerbation of my bronch. My bronch consultant told me I wasn’t handling my bronch properly (After 60 odd years !!!?). My daughter said ask the doc to check my heart. With a sigh she held my wrist then started shouting for the ecg machine. Pulse 180 and all over the place (oxygen always 99 so that shows nothing). In the cardiac office that night. Left ventricular dilated cardiomyopathy and AF! All controlled with drugs now but no thanks to the docs who ignored my complaints for so long. Keep pushing to see the specialists. If you have the name of the cardiac doctor whom you are waiting to see phone their secretary, tell them how you are suffering and get an early appointment. If you don’t know, get to your GP and do not leave until they get the appt brought forward and refer you to a respiratory specialist. I’m afraid that we have to be very proactive in our own interests and vociferous in sourcing the correct treatment.

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I have been referred to a respiratory clinic and a cardiologist but the respiratory clinic is end of October and I haven't even had an appointment for a cardiologist yet as my doctor only referred me 2 weeks ago but what do you do in the meantime. They've put me on steroid inhaler but it seems to be making me feel worse and more short of breath but there's no point in going to A&E until my oxygen levels drop because they won't do anything until your basically dead!

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The good thing is that you are in the process of being diagnosed. The problem with the NHS as we all know is that so many need to access it and waiting times are long. The only thing that I can suggest is that you see a cardiac specialist privately if you can afford it. I had to and it was a good thing that I did. Your respiratory appointment isn't too far away in the scheme of things. If the steroid inhaler isn't helping you can always decide to stop it. Until your GP gets a proper diagnosis from a specialist and a programme of management and treatment there is not much that they can do.

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The communication within healthcare is rubbish isn't it?

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Great advice from littlepom. x

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As above A&E is for accidents and emergencies, you should see your GP, consultant, out of hours or called 101. They probably did measure your oxygen levels through your finger tip by applying a meter. The blood test you are asking for is usually taken in serious cases. Also if it is asthma you can still have an oxygen levels in the high 90s. I'm sure you are getting frustrated with it all and trying to get an answer quickly, your case would have been triage and a decision would have been made if you are a routine case or not. In my area with shortness of breath with normal tests it is treated mostly as routine and it can be an 18 month wait to see a consultant, as they are dealing with more urgent cases such as cancer.

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My A&E is now combined with walk in centre so it's all one now. You can have a normal pulse ox and still be struggling for breath. My breathlessness was lasting 12 hours with no rest and my lungs literally hurt with struggling to breath. I felt like my chest was being squeezed really hard. I had symptoms of hayfever a few months before and chronic exhaustion, sneezing and such. I can only assume I was developing allergy related asthma. I suddenly started getting breathless . I've never had hayfever but my partner does and he gets the same symptoms so I think I've had a massive reaction to pollen or something which as brought

On my asthma which I've also never had as a child but adult onset asthma should be taken more seriously because it can be really bad

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So sorry you had a difficult experience. You seem to know quite a lot about what should be done or not.

I used to call 111 and they sent a doctor or an ambulance when I was in England and by that time I was taking my Ventolin every 30/60 sec and had difficulty to speak, so I have had no problems with treatment in A&E. All depends where you live and go as well. And after what I read in the papers between cutbacks and shortage of staff we are lucky to still have an NHS standing.

Good luck with your new treatment and take care.

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As another person as suggested A&E is for emergency treatment only. Obviously there is a problem somewhere but your condition should be being investigated by your GP and perhaps a referral to a respiratory specialist should be made by your GP for advice on management of your shortness of breath. A&E use protocols/guidelines for admissions and are limited to what they can do they must treat you based on the observations they take. If you have had numerous A&E visits then your GP should be chasing up the long term management of your condition.

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I don't know if SOB should present to GP or A&E, all I do know is I often get things wrong but luckily my mistakes don't kill, maybe we should remember the demands we place on the NHS and try to understand that, like us, they are fallible.

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It depends on how bad it is and you instinctively know when something's really wrong and when you feel like that it warrants a trip to a and e.

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Wish that was true - twice, maybe three times now, consultant has looked me in the eye and said, "Why, why do you leave it so long - one day you'll be too far gone and we won't be able to get you back!"

Like I said I get it wrong all the flipping time

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Please read my experience within the asthma page ....should I complain ???

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I'm sorry that you have all this uncertainty and worry hanging over you. One of your other posts mentions the need for iron - anemia can cause significant SoB as I'm sure you know.

When I was in the process of being diagnosed, my consultant wrote my diagnoses as: Possible cardiomyopathy, Possible Pericarditis, Possible Asthma . . . etc etc. These possible diagnoses caused me enormous concern and the anxiety exacerbated my breathing difficulties to the point that I couldn't function so please don't, as Stone says, underestimate the power of anxiety.

I hope you get the answers that you need, xx

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I don't. Anxiety as made me feel so ill but it really bugs me when you get labelled overly anxious and they put all your breathing problems down to it when you genuinely can't breathe!

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