"Turned away..."

About: Grantham & District Hospital

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I injured my knee at work, which resulted in it swelling up, stiffening and sporadically locking up. Not wishing to waste the time of hospital medical staff by a potentially needless visit to A&E, I took ibuprofen and waited for the swelling to go down. It did do, but the locking issue became worse over the next couple of days - walking up stairs and even putting socks on became a painful and slow task. The same knee was operated on around 12 months ago for cartilage damage. Due to this, I made the decision to attend a minor injury clinic after work, but because I live in a rural area, all the nearby places were closed, or didn't have x-ray facilities. I followed the "symptom checker" on the NHS Direct website, which suggested I attend A&E. My nearest was Grantham - the other alternative being the QMC in Nottingham, where you're often forced to endure a minimum 2-hour waiting time. I telephoned Grantham A&E beforehand, and was politely informed they were not particularly busy. As such, I attended, and was placed in a queue with two others - a man who had mild sunburn, and a woman who had accidentally spilt a small amount of superglue onto her hand. After a 45 minute wait, I was invited into a room with a nurse and doctor. I explained the situation, and the nurse exchanged a slight smile and a "knowing glance" with the doctor, who suddenly took over. I was bluntly told there was nothing they could do for me, and I should make an appointment with my GP, who would refer me... you guessed it! Back to the hospital. I was told A&E was not the place for such an issue, and my disappointment was clearly evident, because the doctor immediately offered me painkillers. I told him I didn't want painkillers, but this didn't stop him repeatedly offering me a variety of paracetamol, ibuprofen, cocodamol and whatever else. The entire assessment lasted around 4 minutes max - a mere 240 seconds. This left me feeling undervalued, undignified and disappointed. I felt like I had been labelled a "waste of time", and absolutely no consideration was given to my immediate future mobility, and the damage I could be causing by continuing to walk/run/climb stairs etc. I felt as though the painkillers were offered as an unnecessary pacifier, and considering this is probably only the third time I've ever attended A&E in my life (I'm 30) it was the nail in the coffin for the NHS, as far as I'm concerned. This, combined with a previously bad experience at Newark A&E (as it used to be) has resulted in me signing up with BUPA. I certainly wouldn't waste my time with the NHS again - if you don't have a serious injury, there's a gaping hole for immediate care in the system. So, to sum things up - I attended A&E for a painful, locking joint injury affecting my mobility. I paid £1.20 for parking, but was basically told to go away, however two other patients with (what I would deem to be) less severe issues than mine, were happily treated and sent on their way. Wholly unimpressed.

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Responses

Response from Jennie Negus, Deputy Director of Patient Services, United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust

picture of Jennie Negus

I am really sorry about your experience; and your dissatisfaction is very clear. From your account I can see that you have been thoughtful in terms of what to do and who to see in relation to your injury and I am sorry that you left A&E feeling so angry. Clearly I cannot comment on the other patients waiting to be seen - though I would add some caution as things are not always as they seem - however without knowing some more details about you I can only make an assumption as to why you were sent home. The reality is that an A&E doctor would have been unlikely to make the specialist diagnosis that your injury warranted considering your previous surgery and the best route would, as suggested, be for your GP to refer you back to your original orthopaedic consultant - that said you did not leave with this being explained (if it were the case) and certainly not with your worries addressed such as restrictions to mobility and I am sorry this was not discussed with you. Please do get in touch with me via patient.involvement@ulh.nhs.uk if you would like me to look into this further for you. Please again accept my apologies.

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