"Your staff saved my mother's ..."

About: Royal Preston Hospital

(as a relative),

What I liked

Your staff saved my mother's life with critical surgery so I am eternally grateful, and this fact overrides everything else. However you ask for critical feedback, so refer to my notes below.

What could be improved

I live in Ireland, so communication has been via telephone with visiting family and ward staff. Help and information provided by the Acute Care staff was generally very good. However, since being transferred to Ward 12, it has been difficult to contact my mother. Sometimes, no-one answers the switchboard number within a reasonable time (surely 5 minutes without an answer is too long!!). The ward's direct lines are not given out freely, so this policy no doubt ties up the switchboard operator unnecessarily. Genuine callers would respect advice, if given, about only making direct calls to wards in special circumstances and maybe at certain quieter times. Today I made a courtesy call to the ward (after 3 previous calls were not answered) advising that I wanted to make travel plans from Ireland to visit my 75-yr old mother. Flight times to UK NW airports are not at convenient times, so I wanted to know if I could make a visit outside of the ward's regular visiting hours. I politely explained my dilemma to a staff member on Ward 12. I was fairly abruptly told that I had to attend during visiting hours or not at all. I know my request was inconvenient, but I was stunned by the reply. Calls to other published numbers at the Hospital on a Sunday were either not answered or recorded messages said ring back after 10.00 am or so on a Monday. Not good enough, in my eyes. I was forced to ring back to the ward where the same voice answered. This time I prompted that this individual had not even asked what the patient's name was so that he might understand her previous life-threatening treatment and her current health and mobility, linked to my understandable desire to visit her from overseas.

As soon as the patient's name was mentioned, I was told that an out-of-hours visit would not be a problem. There shouldn't have been any need to go through this irritating routine on a fairly inconsequential matter compared to the overall treatment provided.

Anything else?

Customer Care call line - no answer.

PALS call line - recorded message; staff cutbacks; no weekend service.

Main switchboard - ineffective.

Ward tel no's - not freely given. Feel awkward as to best time to ring. Considerate callers know what a hard job the nursing staff have, as it is.

I've never had a similar problem with Irish hospitals, and they are more under-funded than the NHS. Perhaps some basic "customer care" training is lacking. Your website (& staff) simply needs to advise visitors that general or recovery ward visiting times must be adhered to except in special unavoidable circumstances, where even then a prompt patient visit cannot be guaranteed. All reasonable people would understand this message, particularly if there was a regularly staffed help-line to assist with out-of-hours visitors (amongst other things).

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