"Complaint about my parents treatment at the hands of the NHS"

About: East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust Northampton General Hospital (Acute) / General medicine Northampton General Hospital (Acute) / Older people's healthcare

(as a relative),

In my opinion, Northampton General Hospital (NGH) caused both my mother and father suffering over a prolonged period of time, which I believe eventually led to the death of my father on 26th May 2008 and has left my mother barely alive owing to the most recent blunders by a GP and the uncaring attitude of a certain consultant at NGH.

Briefly, my mother has had various operations at NGH to remove a section of her intestine and to repair a broken hip. The strain of these operations lead to a deterioration in her health and she has required more and more help from myself and my father. During a seven year period and up to date, my mother became completely reliant on my father and myself, with my dad having to care for her day and night just to do the basic things in life, such as go to the toilet and being fed. She no longer had any grip or power in her hands from her last hospital operation.

To get back to the present and the sequence of events that I am complaining about are as follows:

1. On 5th May 2008 my Dad phoned for an ambulance to take Mum to hospital as he could not cope with her basic needs any longer and was having breathing problems. Mum was discharged and sent to a nursing home in Market Harborough (MH). Why so far from Northampton is beyond me. I was abroad and flew back on 6th May. I visited Mum on the 7th May and found the nursing home to be filthy; I saw sticky carpets, half eaten eggs and food lying on the floor, bed linen filthy etc. She had fallen on a number of occasions during her stay here causing severe bruising and swelling of her arms and knuckles.

2. 9th May my Dad phoned for an ambulance as he was finding it hard to breath.

3. Dad had a “DoNotRevive” (DNR) notice put onto he medical sheets whilst still in the Emergency Assessment Unit (AEU), without any consultation with family or even informing family. It was left for us to read this on his sheet and query it ourselves. I cannot help wondering if doctor decided he was not worth saving.

4. Although my father seemed to have caring nursing staff around him on Dryden Ward, I find it hard to understand why a doctor should ask him questions such as “How do you feel about dying”, without consulting me before the fact, not after. This really upset my father and he mentioned it several times to me in his last hours. Also a few days before his death, it looked like all medication was stopped and all he had was air and a nebuliser. Again it appears that it was pre-decided to let him die. I believe that a doctor slapping a DNR notice on him straight away meant there would only ever be one outcome – death.

5. Finally, he had an appointment at NGH shortly before actually being admitted. This appointment was with a heart specialist at NGH. He said that my fathers’ heart was not in good shape and he should no longer be a carer to my mother. But that was it, my father was still sent home with no agencies being contacted for assistance and he had to continue caring for my Mum until he could manage no longer. So maybe had some help been put into place then, he would not have suffered the heart attack.

I could go on and on with picky little things which I considered inappropriate, but I will now get onto my mothers situation and my other complaints – especially in the days just after my fathers death.

My complaints against NGH for the way that my mother was treated in the last few weeks are as follows:

1. After being sent all the way to Market Harborough Willows Nursing Home and with my father lying in NGH, I discovered that her GP at Danes Camp Surgery had made an appointment for her to attend Intergrated Surgery at NGH. The hospital would not provide an ambulance as she was in Leicestershire and out of their area (not her fault – this is where she was sent). So it was left to me to take her by car to NGH. My mother can no longer walk or hold herself upright and is like a dead weight for one person to manage. I suffer with Labarynthitus (vertigo), so it was an absolute nightmare for me to single handedly get her from Market Harborough to NGH. On reaching the hospital, no porter was available for ten minutes – which would have made her late for the appointment, so once again, on my own I had to get her out of the car and down to Intergrated Surgery. I am 65 and as I said suffer with vertigo, so it took all of my strength to struggle with her.. She was in tears and very distressed, so on reaching (IS) she was quickly ushered into a room so as not to upset other patients. When the doctor looked at her, he said to me that he did not think my mother would survive the examination needed to assess if she needed any surgery, as this would entail fasting for 24 hours, then having her system flushed out and a camera put into her. He intimated that she really should not have been referred so my mother and I suffered unnecessary distress for no good reason. As my father was in Dryden Ward, I then took my mother to the ward to see my father – they had been together for over 60 years so I thought it appropriate should anything happen with my father that at least Mum could say goodbye to my Dad. This seemed to upset staff and patients alike as both my parents were crying and very distressed.

2. To cap the day off, I returned to my car to find an £80 parking fine stuck on the windscreen. I had used my Mothers disabled badge as I was transporting her to NGH and I parked in what I thought was an disabled bay, staying for about 2 hours. I appealed against the fine (stating most of the above), but was told by the parking company that NGH had refused my appeal and that I was parked in a clearly marked “30 min return bay”. I had to go back to the hospital and look again when they said this, which is when I first saw it was marked on the roadway and as a car pulled out of the space and I pulled directly into it, I did not see the road markings. In fact I was more concerned with keeping my mother upright and safe in the car. Also by the time NGH refused my appeal, my Dad had died. Turning down my appeal was uncaring, unfeeling and money grabbing and certainly managed to rub salt into my grief – and I hate them for that!

3. The next thing that I find despicable was the way my mother and I were treated on 31st May at NGH. It started with Market Harborough Nursing home calling a GP – who doesn’t know my mothers past history, diagnosing a hernia problem and arranging for her to be admitted into NGH. The nursing home as not asked me about her past history. Had they done this, the GP would have realised that all she had was a water infection and given her a course of antibiotics (the hernia had been there since my mothers last operation on her stomach in NGH). I was informed that the GP had arranged an ambulance from NGH to take her into A&E, but after a 3 hour wait, there was still no sign of an ambulance. So once again it was left up to family to bring her by car from Mkt Harboro to NGH, which again was distressing for all concerned. When we arrived at A&E my mother was crying, in pain and very distressed and after lying around in A&E for a number of hours, was eventually seen by a lady doctor who seemed caring and knowledgeable. She said that possibly mum had some sort of kidney infection caused by her water infection. She told us that Mum would go to AEU, get a blood test, X-rays and possibly a scan to find out why she was in such pain and that she would stay in hospital, definitely all Sunday and probably longer until the results of the tests were through. My wife and I spent some time with her on the ward and she was very distraught, confused and frightened and really did not know what was going on.

4. On Sunday 1st June I received a phone call from NGH saying that the hospital was discharging my mother home. I explained that she could not go home as my father had died five days earlier and he was her primary carer at home. The nurse in charge, then told me they would arrange an ambulance to take her back to Mkt Harboro Nursing home. I told the nurse that I did not want her sent back there as I considered the place to be filthy and my mother had fallen in their care on a number of occasions, causing her multiple bruising and swollen knuckles. The nurse was adamant that she leaves the hospital and on two occasions she actually put the phone down on me as I was talking to her. When I confronted her about this, her answer was “I thought you were finished talking”. This to me is completely unacceptable behaviour by a head nurse.

5. To continue, on the day she was admitted into NGH (31st May), my wife and I had found a nursing home locally that would accept my mother subject to an assessment. So I arranged for an assessment to be carried out on the Monday 2nd June am. So even though we were told she would probably be kept in until all tests results were analysed, it seems that a consultant decided she did not need any tests and to discharge my mother from the hospital on Sunday even though I begged them to keep her overnight and she was in severe pain, confused and fightened and had been moved from pillar to post since my father died, people such as the head nurse (the person who put the phone down on me), the senior nurse on call who new the situation and last but no least, the consultant who I begged and told that my dad had just died, also fully new our situation, but was happy to discharge my mother. It seems funny how NGH were able to arrange an ambulance to discharge her back to Market Harborough, but were unable to get an ambulance to fetch her on two occasions. I wonder if the hospital is merely trying to meet government targets by turning around patient numbers. My mother did not receive the sort of help she needed and after the trauma she suffered she is now like a vegetable, for which I hold the aforementioned people entirely responsible for the despicable way which she was treated. The bed manager said that she was only acting on orders from her superiors, that she felt what was done to my mother was wrong.

So to sum up. I hold NGH fully responsible for:

1. In the week prior to his heart attack, telling my father that he cannot care for my mother any more – yet sending him home to continue doing just that and not informing any agency of the situation.

2. Attaching a DNR notice to my Dads medical sheets without any consultation, even before he went on the ward.

3. A doctor on Dryden Ward asking my father what he thought about dying – which I know upset my Dad in his last hours because he kept telling me that he thought it to be not a nice thing to say to someone.

4. Why was all the medication bar the air and nebuliser stopped a few days prior to his death – could that be anything to do with the DNR notice?

5. Why did the hospital not assist with ambulance to get my mother to an appointment at Intergrated Surgery, but left it to me (aged 65 with vertigo) to manhandle her, causing us both distress, only to be told it was a waste of time coming to the appointment as she would possibly not survive the pre-op investigation. Also as mentioned previously, I was fined by NGH, as well as I had to get my mother back to Market Harboro without any help from anybody.

6. When my mother was sent to NGH on May 31st, the GP asked for an ambulance to collect her – but we waited for over 3 hours and in the end had to get her by car to A&E. Why couldn’t the hospital have let us know that they were not sending an ambulance?

7. Though my mother had been referred by the GP, when we arrived, nobody seemed to know anything and she spent hours lying in A&E frightened, confused and in severe pain, after asking several nurses, we eventually got her some pain relief.

8. After about 4 hours, my Mum was eventually seen by a lady doctor who checked her out, thought she might have a water infection affecting her kidneys saying they would carry out tests as already mentioned to determine the problem. All this time my mother was calling for help – she is 86, has been through hell over the previous days and weeks – let along the last 7 years and to top it all her husband (my father) had died 5 days previously. We were told she would definitely stay in hospital Sunday and probably until the results of tests came through.

9. Why after the careful examination, did the consultant decide no tests were needed and discharge her from the hospital the next day. He must have seen what we saw, which was a pitiful, weak, frightened and confused elderly person that needed a little care and compassion. Yet although I pleaded and explained all she had been through, he decided she should go.

10. Without any help or support from NGH my wife and I were able to get my mother admitted into a wonderful caring environment called Raunds Lodge Nursing Home, but with the traumatic stay in NGH and the treatment (or should I say non-treatment) she had received at the NGH, my Mum has changed out of all recognition, bringing her Grandson to tears and upsetting my whole family.

My experience with NGH over the years and more recently, leads me to the conclusion that you have major problems that need sorting out. Elderly people in NGH are not pieces of meat and I would expect them to be shown respect and dignity and also doctors should be held to account for their actions as well as GPs.

Please note that both my parents are now dead and I maintain their deaths are primarily due to the way they were treated by the NHS Trust of Northampton General Hospital.

Also I got a final reply to all my points above in December 2008, after months of excuses and I no longer had the will to continue my fight for justice for my Parents - my Mum died on January 1st 2009 and I feel that your programme about Patient care, nurses and doctors in the NHS is just the tip of the iceberg and it is much worse than even your programme portrayed. Answers given by Government ministers and the NHS Trusts always talk down to us and it's a "pass the buck" culture that needs to be stamped out. It sickens me to have witnessed what happened to my mother and father and the attitudes of some of the "so called" nursing staff.

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