A DOUBLE transplant patient from East Renfrewshire was told he didn't meet the criteria for an ambulance, despite being warned by doctors he needed emergency treatment to “save his organs.”

Russell Macmillan, who received a life-saving kidney and pancreas transplant 18 years ago, became seriously unwell after catching flu a few days before Christmas.

He suffered prolonged sickness and diarrhoea, which meant he was unable to keep his anti-rejection medication down and stay hydrated, which is essential to keep transplanted kidneys healthy.

After becoming increasingly concerned, he called his GP on December 21 but he was out on an emergency home visit.

Mr Macmillan, who is also blind, then called the transplant unit at Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

He said he was told they did not have free beds but he “needed to be seen” to receive emergency fluids and was advised to call 111 and request an ambulance.

Mr Macmillan's GP later returned his call and gave him the same advice.

However, he says he was told by the call handler that he didn’t meet the threshold for emergency transport, despite explaining that his wife was also unwell with flu and wasn’t in a position to drive him to hospital.

Mr Macmillan said: “I was told I didn’t qualify for an ambulance despite me being blind, my wife being ill and told to do so by the doctor covering the renal transplant ward.

“They said I should phone my GP. Once I got through to my GP, he eventually managed to order an ambulance but was told it would be more than two hours, then a big wait in the ambulance. I was told it was likely to be six hours minimum.

“I had already been without fluids for 40-plus hours. As a kidney transplant patient, I am supposed to be able to drink two litres of water per day to make sure I’m keeping my kidneys hydrated.

“When you pick up something like the flu, coming with vomiting and diarrhoea, you are in severe danger because not only can you not keep down fluids, you can’t take your anti-rejection therapy.

“I was terrified of losing my pancreas and kidney, so I got my wife to drive me.”

He says they went straight to the transplant ward instead of going to A&E because he was so concerned about any further delays.

“I knew my veins were becoming weaker and weaker through severe dehydration," added Mr Macmillan.

“I opted to go straight to the transplant ward, chapped the door and said ‘help, I’m in trouble.’ Had I gone down to A&E, I don’t know what state my kidney would have been in.

“Thankfully, a renal transplant doc, recognising the danger of rejection, put me in a consulting room – they didn’t have a bed – and set up a drip, pushing as much fluid as possible into my system and preventing failure of my organs.

“The consultant told me my veins were collapsing.”

Mr Macmillan, of Newton Mearns, remained in hospital for five days before he was taken home by ambulance on Boxing Day, as his wife was also unwell with flu.

He believes his ordeal is just one example of the strain health and care services are currently experiencing.

“The staff were absolutely lovely but they were run ragged," said Mr Macmillan. “I am so grateful that a renal doctor recognised the danger and put me into a consulting room, not a ward, and put in a drip line.

“The real nub of this issue is that, as long as we continue to pay our home carers such paltry wages, we are not going to have enough home carers to provide the packages to free up beds in hospital for things like preventing transplanted organs being rejected.”

A spokesperson for NHS 24 said: “We are sorry to hear Mr Macmillan has been unwell.

“We would welcome feedback about his experience of calling 111, which would enable us to look into the advice and care he received. Our patient experience team can be contacted via patient.experience@nhs24.scot.nhs.uk”