"Learning point for student doctors"

About: Heartlands Hospital / Accident and emergency

(as the patient),

I had occasion to visit Heartlands A&E on Monday because of an extremely painful hip joint. I was seen quickly and had an x-ray and painkillers. Upon discharge from the department, I made my way over to the main entrance to fill a prescription for further painkillers from the pharmacy.

Unfortunately whilst there, I felt unwell and became aware of a shortness of breath than was not usual for me. I sat in the reception area for a few minutes while the breathlessness became more pronounced. In some distress I made contact with someone I assumed to be a student doctor, a young woman with a group of about four or five colleagues. I explained my situation and said I was worried it was a reaction to the painkiller I had been given. I actually caught sight of one of her cohort smirking at me as I was speaking to her. All she said was that I should go back to A & E and speak to them about whether the painkiller might be the cause of the issue; she and her group then walked off. The breathlessness continued until a member of the public saw my distress (a number of medical staff had already walked past) and alerted reception, who called for the Emergency Response Team.

As it turned out, the breathlessness was probably due to the high degree of pain I was in; I spent the afternoon in A & E being tested for blood clots (as I have a history of TIA) etc.

My concern is that because of the lack of concern of people presumably training to be medical staff, the emergency response team were diverted from their immediate tasks to help me. They were all very pleasant and were there very quickly, but a bit of care and compassion on the part of those students, as well as a dash of common sense, might have meant no-one else was bothered.

In my view, even if the students were not qualified to be in a position to help me medically, they should have been aware by this point that someone struggling for breath is potentially serious and should not be walked away from.

The young woman I spoke to was dismissive and made no attempt to help or reassure me, to find help or offer to help me back to A & E.

I was upset by her lack of compassion.

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Response from Iona Belgrove, Patient Services Manager, Heart Of England NHS Foundation Trust

Dear SCH

Thank you for taking time and trouble to email your experience at Heartlands Emergency Department (ED). I have spoken to the Associate Medical Directors who emailed me with this - Apologies for the poor experience and apparent non compassionate attitude of healthcare professionals. We intend to learn from this feedback and will address this at the Junior Doctors induction shortly.

Wish you well and a speedy recovery


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