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Patient fury with doctor

PUBLISHED: 17:00 07 September 2001 | UPDATED: 10:29 03 March 2010

A WHEELCHAIR-BOUND asthmatic, who had to be hospitalised as she fought for a breath of life, has complained that her doctor's appointment was cancelled.

A WHEELCHAIR-BOUND asthmatic, who had to be hospitalised as she fought for a breath of life, has complained that her doctor's appointment was cancelled.

Angry Claire O'Brien had booked an urgent doctor's appointment at a surgery in Ipswich, because she suspected an asthma attack was coming on, and felt she needed medication to prevent it developing.

But she claims the surgery then phoned her to say the doctor would not be coming in for the clinic.

Claire said she was amazed to be told he was not attending because she was the only patient, and she claims she said it was urgent.

The doctor promised to see her the next day instead.

Within just two hours, Claire - who is confined to a wheelchair after her back was injured while baton training as a Special Constable - was gasping for air, and finding it impossible to breathe.

She had to be rushed to Ipswich Hospital by taxi, and was quickly put on a ventilator machine.

The 24-year-old was kept in hospital all day until her condition stabilised.

Claire said: "I felt I needed a prescription for some steroid tablets, which would open my airways and stop the attack happening.

"But within two hours of my appointment being cancelled, my chest was so tight I could hardly take another breath. My throat was closing up and I was thinking 'what's going to happen?' I was going into a major panic mode.

"When I got to A&E my face was tingling, because there wasn't enough oxygen in my blood."

Her fiancé and carer Simon Ellington, 32, said: "As a long term asthma sufferer, she knows the symptoms of an attack coming on, and the hospital tests proved she had a chest infection. It was very serious and the hospital said we should have called for an ambulance in the circumstances."

The couple are both St John Ambulance-trained first aiders, and Simon added that severe asthma attacks like that one can prove fatal.

Claire is still recovering from the scare two weeks ago.

She has now written an official complaint to Suffolk Health, after seeking advice from the patient watchdog East Suffolk Community Health Council.

The couple are both in the process of changing their doctor.

A spokesman for Ipswich Primary Care Trust, which provides primary care like doctors and dentists in the town, said neither it nor Suffolk Health had yet received a letter of complaint and declined to comment until that arrived.

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