"Helping patients or online shopping?"

About: Wansbeck Hospital

Last week I was on ward 15 having a laparoscopic hysterectomy with salpingo-oophorectomy. I was happy with the care I was receiving but as time wore on my abdomen and back became increasingly painful. I buzzed for help and was given codeine and then Oromorph by a lovely nurse who was very kind and reassuring telling me that I could continue having more pain killers if I needed them and not to worry about it. However she also said that she was about to go off duty but would tell the new shift what was happening. The oromorph made me very sleepy but I was still in some pain. I could hear staff coming in and out of the bay talking to other patients but they never approached me to ask if I was okay. At some point a nurse told me that my husband was on on the phone. I told her I was still in pain and she asked if it was okay for him to come and collect me. I said yes, but no one came back regarding the pain so I asked for some paracetamol knowing that I had to get out of bed to get dressed. When my husband arrived on the ward a health care assistant came into the bay and I asked her if she would help me get out of bed, to which she replied no she couldn't. The bed was in the reclined break position and the controls were hooked onto the end of the bed so it was difficult to sit up without straining. Her comment was “She's had the same as you” pointing to the woman next to me who'd been up and about for some time, implying that I should be up and about and not bothering the nurses. And then she asked “Is this your husband?” and when I said yes she said “He'll have to help you!”. She didn't even offer me any sanitary pads even though I had some vaginal bleeding – I had to ask for them and she wasn't pleased about this either. Once I was dressed and sitting in the chair we waited for some time and then my husband went to the desk to ask about discharge instructions and, as if to add insult to injury, found that she was on the computer looking at clothes on a shopping web site! It's bad enough needing a total hysterectomy and all that brings with it, especially on the heels of suffering with breast cancer, but to be made to feel 'bad' or awkward for being in pain and feeling wrung out is just not on. The surgeon had told me that 70% of women manage to get home the same day following this procedure which suggests that 30% of women struggle with it and need to stay in, so I can't be the first person who felt like I did. I tried to explain how my pain manifested itself but she just wasn't interested. Afterwards I thought why should I have to justify the fact that I was in pain? This nursing assistant demonstrated impatience, indifference and annoyance instead of empathy, compassion and even common courtesy. And instead of helping me she was more concerned with internet shopping, Unbeleavable!

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Response from Joanne Mackintosh, Service Improvement Project Manager, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Dear Madam

I do hope that you are making a good recovery at home.

Thank you for your very comments about the nurse who looked after you initially on ward 15. It is very reassuring to know that you were shown kindness and compassion from this nurse in particular and that she effectively managed your pain at that point. I am so sorry that this level of care and attention did not continue for you.

I was very disappointed to hear that you did not receive the support you needed to prepare for your discharge home. The needs of our patients should always be our priority and I am really sorry that this was not the case for you, particularly after your recent and difficult illness.

Your description of the both the attitude and practice of the healthcare assistant is very concerning and completely out of step with the values of the Trust. You will understand why I want to act with some urgency to establish who this member of staff is, so that we can remind her of her priorities when caring for patients and why the behaviours that you describe are completely unacceptable.

Swift action now will enable this member of staff to learn and will also ensure she doesn’t repeat this mistake for other patients.

I would be grateful if you could contact me at Annie.laverty@nothumbria-healthcare.nhs.uk

With best wishes and many thanks,


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