"A disgraceful way to treat relatives especially so far away"

About: Royal Bournemouth General Hospital / General medicine

(as a relative),

My elderly mother has been an in patient of the Royal Bournemouth Ward 5 for nearly 3 weeks and has been quite unwell. I live in Australia and have had regular contact with ward staff some with good information others with little. My mother became more unwell 48 hours ago and I was trying to assess the urgency of booking a flight home and the organising that will be required in leaving my wife (who works full time) and young family. I was very fortunate on that occasion (48 hours ago) to speak to a staff nurse who also managed to get a doctor I could talk to who explained the situation and reassured me.

I rang yesterday and spoke to Mum who seemed confused and breathless which obviously worried me and tonight (midday UK time) I rang and initially was told by a staff member who was aware that I was calling from Australia to ring back in 40 minutes to get information from the staff nurse. I did this and the staff nurse could not have been more unhelpful not answering any questions except by saying it was their policy not to give any information out over the phone. My wife who is also a nurse spoke with her and discussed our concerns explaining that we had indeed already had some very specific information from both nursing and medical staff and we were worried and very concerned about her and wondered if we needed to book flights to return to the UK. Again this staff nurse on ward 5 did not give any information refusing. My wife stated that she assumed that the conversation that had been carried out by us 48 hours previously had been documented in the notes and would have been handed over to other nursing staff and medical team. This was not answered and I believe was clearly not the case. When my wife asked the staff nurse what would be the best outcome and what could we do to get information to make a decision about the flights we were told

1- We didn't need to book flights

2 - We were given a number of a Sarah (she did not know the surname) who was a consultant's secretary who did not work today but could book us an appointment to talk with him next week.

Astounding, do you not think? We are 12500 miles away worried, concerned and having a huge amount to organise to get to the UK if that is needed and this was all the nurse was able to offer.

I found this totally inconsiderate, thoughtless and hidden behind policy. The fact that I am now known to the staff as I have been ringing for nearly 3 weeks and also my mother has mentioned that I live in Australia and I have indeed had a conversation with nurses and doctors about my Mums' condition seemed to make no odds to this nurse. She was unable to offer any resolution or saw this issue as any concern to her and what impact this would have on us as her children and grand children was very clear.

I then called the PALs and complaints manager in an effort to escalate this in getting some information today but have only been able to leave a message on an answer phone with my email address in an effort to get some response.

Apart from being distressed and concerned about my Mum, the lack of care, insight, compassion and empathy that this nurse showed and the fact that there is no one I have been referred to today that can help is quite shocking and a disgraceful way to treat relatives especially so far away.

Do you have a similar story to tell? Tell your story & make a difference ››

Responses

Response from Sue Mellor, Patient Experience Lead, Royal Bournemouth & Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Dear “Nikkidiver”

Firstly, I am sorry to hear that your mother has been poorly for some length of time and I appreciate how difficult it must be when trying to communicate from Australia. I can understand your fears and frustration when you spoke with your mother on the phone and she sounded so unwell.

I escalated your concerns over the weekend because of the seriousness of your complaint and have discussed this with the Ward Sister, Deputy Ward Sister and Directorate Manager and we apologise that we as a Trust did not communicate with you to the standard we would expect.

We understand that the nurse refused to give you any information regarding your mother noting that Trust policy prohibited this. The nurse you spoke with is a very newly qualified nurse and was following Trust policy. She was distressed after the call and has been spoken with and made aware that in the future she should escalate to a senior member of the team.

I believe you are aware that your mother has now been moved to another ward and that you have been in contact with the staff. I fully appreciate that this is a difficult time for you and your family.

In addition I have been in contact with PALS who will respond to your email and would be happy to discuss this in more detail either by phone or email whichever is your preference.

Please feel free to make contact with me if I can help in anyway. Sue.mellor@rbch.nhs.uk

Regards

Sue Mellor

Head of Patient Engagement

  • nikkidiver thinks this response is helpful
    {{helpful-1}} of {{totalOthers()}} other people think so too

Update posted by nikkidiver (a relative)

Dear Ms Mellor,

Thank you for this reply. I am sorry the nurse concerned was distressed, which is unfortunate, and pleased she has received further advice. In hindsight we should have asked to speak to someone in a more senior position, but I hope there are some positives from this encounter.

In this day and age, with easy communications and commitments to openness, perhaps policies and their implementation should acknowledge relatives can be a very long way away. The fact my mother has been sick for three weeks in a ward should have provided a context for the discussion. I would be interested in seeing the relevant part of the policy referred to.

I am in fact travelling back to the UK today.

Regards

Response from Royal Bournemouth General Hospital

30/06/2014 at 10:11 Dear “Nikkidiver” Firstly, I am sorry to hear that your mother has been poorly for some length of time and I appreciate how difficult it must be when trying to communicate from Australia. I can understand your fears and frustration when you spoke with your mother on the phone and she sounded so unwell. I escalated your concerns over the weekend because of the seriousness of your complaint and have discussed this with the Ward Sister, Deputy Ward Sister and Directorate Manager and we apologise that we as a Trust did not communicate with you to the standard we would expect. We understand that the nurse refused to give you any information regarding your mother noting that Trust policy prohibited this. The nurse you spoke with is a very newly qualified nurse and was following Trust policy. She was distressed after the call and has been spoken with and made aware that in the future she should escalate to a senior member of the team. I believe you are aware that your mother has now been moved to another ward and that you have been in contact with the staff. I fully appreciate that this is a difficult time for you and your family. In addition I have been in contact with PALS who will respond to your email and would be happy to discuss this in more detail either by phone or email whichever is your preference. Please feel free to make contact with me if I can help in anyway. Sue.mellor@rbch.nhs.uk Regards Sue Mellor Head of Patient Engagement _____________________________________ Update posted by nikkidiver (a relative) on 30/06/2014 at 20:16 Dear Ms Mellor, Thank you for this reply. I am sorry the nurse concerned was distressed, which is unfortunate, and pleased she has received further advice. In hindsight we should have asked to speak to someone in a more senior position, but I hope there are some positives from this encounter. In this day and age, with easy communications and commitments to openness, perhaps policies and their implementation should acknowledge relatives can be a very long way away. The fact my mother has been sick for three weeks in a ward should have provided a context for the discussion. I would be interested in seeing the relevant part of the policy referred to. I am in fact travelling back to the UK today. Regards