"Information and communication"

About: Essex County Hospital

I recently attended the Opthalmology Clinic for a check-up after surgery for Retinal Tear. The bookings procedure was excellent and the staff bent over backwards to ensure that I attended at a time and date which was convenient for all. On arrival, reception was brisk and clear and very informative about possible delays. The gentleman who conducted the photographing of my eyes was similarly clear and informative, and went out of his way to explain the reasons why things were proceeding more slowly than might have been desirable. This did not make the four-hour gap between my official appointment time and the time I saw the eye specialist any less tedious, but at least they were all trying! The specialist was highly professional: clear, concise and informative, even though he clearly had a heavier workload than was desirable. The one problem – and it is a significant one – emerged from the results of the sight test which was conducted before my consultation. The person who conducted the test had considerable difficulties communicating what she wanted me to do. The chart was in a configuration which was entirely new to me and yet she did not explain the procedure nor did she comment on my progress. Several times I was forced to ask her to clarify what she meant as her phrasing was not in Standard English (I am a linguist by profession, so I know!), her articulation was not clear and she did not seem to understand some of my questions. In addition, she seemed to have no grasp of basic idiomatic English, which, as we all know, is how real meaning is conveyed, whether in a bank, a restaurant or a laboratory. The problem this caused emerged when the specialist looked at the results and asked me whether I was aware that my right eye had deteriorated. As far as I was concerned I had just seen and read the entire sight test chart crisply, briskly and with complete and instant accuracy. The person who had administered the test did not seem to have noticed this fact! I leave the reader to draw their own conclusions. However, my personal view is that this could easily have led to a diagnosis and treatment which was not clinically secure.

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Response from Essex County Hospital

I apologise you’ve not had a good patient experience. We try really hard to improve our services based on the comments we receive from our patients, their relatives or carers. We would like the opportunity to discuss your experiences more fully and to apologise in person. If you are willing I would appreciate it if I could ask the matron to contact you. Could you email me, using the reference “xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx”, please? Many thanks Paul Searle, Head of Communications Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust info@colchesterhospital.nhs.uk

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