SOUTHEND Hospital is reviewing its blood-taking service following complaints about lengthy waits after an elderly man was escorted from a clinic by security staff.

Under the automated system, outpatients have to book in and get a number from a touch screen before waiting for their number to come up on another screen.

They must then proceed to the hospital’s phlebotomy department on the mezzanine floor, where they face another wait for the number to come up again.

But last week a woman watched as security staff removed an elderly man from the department because he had gone straight upstairs to wait for a test.

Rosemary Debenham was waiting with her daughter and grandson, who needed a blood test, when the drama unfolded.

Mrs Debenham said: “An elderly gentleman with two walking sticks came into the upstairs department. He said as he was not very mobile and he was frightened of missing his slot, he would wait upstairs until his number was called.

“He was told it could be a two-hour wait, but he was quite happy with this saying he had a newspaper and was content to wait.

“A member of staff then told him he had to wait downstairs and if he didn’t go he would call security. The elderly gentleman was then forcibly removed by security from the upstairs department.”

Mrs Debenham added: “I find it disgusting that an elderly, infirm gentleman could be treated this way. What harm could it have done to let him wait upstairs?”

The hospital has apologised and admits it is looking to change its procedures. Rupert Wainwright, interim director of operations at the hospital, said: “We are sorry to hear of this patient’s experience and would apologise for the difficulties he encountered in the department.

“We have recently been experiencing a greater volume of patients at our walk-in clinic which has unfortunately coincided with a number of staff absences. To try to ease the situation, we are looking into increasing capacity at our community clinics where blood tests are on an appointment-only basis.”

Mr Wainwright added: “The management of phlebotomy services has been changed in the last fortnight to help improve the service.

“We are also currently reviewing all our phlebotomy services to try to ease the pressure at peak times. Demand is heavy when the walk-in service first opens at 8am and we urge patients to come later.”