"Great clinical care let down by waiting area at Western Eye Hospital A&E"

About: Western Eye Hospital / Ophthalmology

(as the patient),

On advice from the NHS Symptoms website, I went to the Western Eye Hospital A&E on Marylebone Road in London late one day last week. I was seen promptly by a triage nurse, who tested my vision, tested pressure in my eyeball and put drops in my eyes. She told me how long I'd probably need to wait (4 hours) which I did, but my expectations had been fairly set.

I was seen after midnight by Dr Ting, who gave me a thorough examination and diagnosis, with an information sheet. She says she will write to my GP. She also helped me with the number of the all night buses to get me back to where I was staying. I was happy and impressed with the care and professionalism of the medical staff at Western Eye Hospital A&E.

By contrast, the management of the hospital had failed to provide enough chairs - in a large waiting area - so people ill enough to come in to A&E late at night had to lean against the walls. Also so far as I could see, there was no access to water other than from a local shop, so only possible if you'd come with a companion who could go out on your behalf.

I think it's disgraceful that the hospital management let down the standards achieved by their clinical colleagues by a dilatory failure to provide a humane environment for waiting patients. I am sure none of the hospital admin staff lacks a chair to sit on. It reflects a callous indifference to patient welfare.

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Response from Christine Cornell, PALS manager, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust appreciates your feedback following your attendance at the Western Eye Hospital. Thank you for your kind appreciation for the clinical care you received.

Your important comments with regard to the lack of seating and services within A & E have been passed to senior managers and will be used as the service works to improve the patient experience.

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Update posted by London Visitor (the patient)

The management response is vague waffle - no commitment to real action, no facts, no dates. What should have been sent is something like '12 chairs have been added to the waiting area at A&E and a water cooler will be installed by 25 July'.

Instead the management response apparently reflects exactly the 'callous indifference to patient welfare' that I remark on in my patient story. Essentially, management all have a chair, and us the patients can just continue leaning against the wall until they - possibly, but with no commitment - get round to reducing their apparent neglect for our wellbeing. In my opinion disgusting.

Response from Christine Cornell, PALS manager, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust We have made a change

We are sorry the you are dissatisfied with our response to your concerns. The service manager at the WEH apologises for the poor experience you have reported. Below are her comments which we trust will be helpful:

We have seen a significant increase in the attendance to A&E over the past 12/18 months and the lack of space has been acknowledged and steps are underway to address this.

However as an immediate solution we have arranged that additional chairs will be transferred from the main OPD to the ward (A&E is transferred to Alex Cross ward after 21.00) so lack of chairs will not be a problem in the future for patients who are transferred to Alex Cross

In the main A & E open to 21.00 hrs there is a working water cooler and the main clinical area is air conditioned.

After 21.00 patients go to the Alex Cross Ward and although we do not have a water cooler there is a kitchen and the nursing staff can provide iced drinking water.

We totally accept waiting, especially if you have to stand, is a poor patient experience not made any easier by the exceptionally hot weather. We will ask the nursing staff to offer drinks to patients when they see them at triage, which is usually within 30 mins of their arrival, and to reiterate water is available should they need it.

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Update posted by London Visitor (the patient)

Good news re the extra chairs.

Rather than burden the nursing staff with getting water for the patients, I suggest install a water cooler now for patients to help themselves round the clock. The nurses have enough to do without that. Thank you.