"Help and commonsense needed when elderly patients are discharged"

About: East Surrey Hospital / Respiratory medicine

(as a relative),

My father recently stayed at ESH, on Tandridge ward. I don’t have any complaint about the nursing staff; the doctor and nurses were lovely.

However, I’m unhappy about the way he was discharged from the ward.

My mother was told that he’d be released the following day at around 2pm; however, she was phoned first thing in the morning and told to collect him straight away.

My parents are in their late 80s, dad was seriously ill and quite frail and my mother (after 2 operations on her hips) needs a walking stick – and there are very few disabled parking spaces.

When I phoned the ward and asked if transport or help could be arranged, the person I spoke to seemed surprised that help would be needed, but did agree that they’d get a porter to take dad to reception.

I know that beds are needed for others (we used this as an argument to try to get dad released early as he wanted to be at home) but surely someone with commonsense could have sat him in a day room and not put pressure on my mum, who was stressed at the thought that she needed to get to the hospital immediately.

Given a little time, my sister, who lives nearby, could have taken mum to collect dad and his belongings.

When I spoke to PALS to ask that staff bear this in mind when dealing with elderly and confused relatives, I felt as though I was talking to a brick wall – all they’d say was that it couldn't be discussed because of patient confidentiality.

Mum was also confused about the medication which dad needed to take at home - couldn't patients/relatives like this be given a simple chart?

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Responses

Response from David Heller, Chief Pharmacist, Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust

Dear Wiggins

I'm sorry that your Dad's discharge has not been satisfactory. A medicines chart is easy for us to provide and is produced directly from your Dad's discharge letter.

If you send me your details then I will ensure that we produce a medicines chart that you can give to your Mum. Please contact me via email david.heller@sash.nhs.uk

Kind regards

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Response from David Heller, Chief Pharmacist, Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust We are preparing to make a change

Thank you for getting in touch with me. I have emailed back with some information and I will take something in to your parents later today. In the meantime I will be reminding my team and others that we need to ensure that patients and their carers have the information that they need to help them take their medicines safely.

In the meantime, the Medicines Information Patient Helpline phone number is on the discharge letter. In case you can't see the letter, the number is:

01737 768511 then key in extension number 6246

The number is manned between 2:30pm and 4:30pm Monday to Friday but we will call back if no-one is available to take your call.

Kind regards

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Update posted by Wiggins (a relative)

I'm very happy with the helpful response from the Chief Pharmacist who's gone out of his way to make sure my mum (who gets stressed with things she doesn't fully understand) will manage dad's medication.

Other matters haven't been addressed as yet; I'm especially surprised that PALS felt they couldn't comment on the way dad was discharged because of patient confidentiality, when at no time had I asked them to discuss private or confidential matters. Things won't change unless problems are listened to.

Response from David Heller, Chief Pharmacist, Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust We are preparing to make a change

Following our email conversations about the right level of information to give about medicines, we are discussing in the pharmacy department how we choose the right patients to give more written information. We should always give summary written information about new medicines and I am following up why your parents weren't given that, although I recognise that the extra information may have worried your Mum even more. I'm also going to find ways to have our patient helpline manned much more and messages returned at weekends. This might take some time but I'm confident that we'll get there.

Kind regards

David Heller

Chief Pharmacist

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Update posted by Wiggins (a relative)

I really am grateful for the effort you've put into this - the NHS at its very best.

I think most patients and relatives find it hard to take in instructions, rather like some people have to write down a list of symptoms before seeing their GP - they get nervous when out of their comfort zone and their minds go blank. They think they'll remember but rarely do.

To someone like my mum, elderly and easily stressed, it's hard to cope with instructions such as 'as required' when she has no idea when it's required!