"be more sympathetic and understanding"

About: Scottish Ambulance Service / Emergency Ambulance Victoria Hospital / Accident & Emergency Victoria Hospital / Paediatrics

(as a parent/guardian),

Back in late August/early September 2012, soon after my son was born, he developed what I considered a breathing condition I. e. his crying was quite weak and laboured, whereas they were usually very loud and strong. Due to my concerns, I contacted a midwife care line with telling them about my son's condition and symptoms, to which I was then passed onto what I believe was a paediatric doctor (whose name I can't unfortunately remember) who after listening to my concerns, told me to call for an Ambulance to take my son into the hospital (Kirkcaldy Victoria) to get examined.

So I did call for an ambulance, which did arrive quickly. Now the unfortunate thing that happened is that once my son got into the ambulance, his condition seemed to improve as his crying returned to its usual strength and volume. The ambulance which I believe was crewed by a male paramedic and a female technician, then proceeded to take him to hospital. I believe they came from the Leven ambulance station, as this is the closest one to my house, however, I cannot verify this, it's just a guess that they were from the Leven Station.

One of the things that struck me from the start was the attitude of one of paramedics who didn't come across as very sympathetic in this situation, if I didn't know any better, it would seem that one of the paramedics thought we were being paranoid new parents who were worrying over nothing, and given that my son's condition had improved once in the ambulance (although this was later proven to be an intermittent improvement, as his condition soon deteriorated), seemed to be of the opinion that we were wasting their time. To be fair to the other crew member did seem concerned and was more accommodating than their colleague.

So we made it to the hospital and we went to the A&E department, where again due to the intermittency of his condition, he again appeared to be normal.

Fortunately, the aforementioned paediatric doctor had the good sense to ask why my son had not been sent up to get examined, to which he was immediately sent up to the doctor where he was diagnosed with a breathing condition, which was later to be the result of a viral/bacterial condition of some sort, and was kept in a high-dependency unit (or whatever the Kirkcaldy Victoria Hospital's equivalent of a child special care unit was), and was kept in for at least a week.

Thankfully, due to the hard work of the staff there, my son fully recovered and now he is a healthy bouncing 2 year old boy who is in perfect health (too perfect in fact), But to this day, I still feel aggrieved and angry at the unsympathetic attitude presented to me by the paramedic in the ambulance. I'm just so thankful that the paediatric doctor had the good presence of mind to check up on the whereabouts of my son, as I hate to think what would have happened if he had been cleared by the A&E team and sent home that day.

What I'm looking for from this is not a finger-pointing exercise, I'm not looking for any one person to take the blame, I just want people, such as Ambulance staff to be more sympathetic and understanding in situations such as mine, when you are a new parent, there is nothing more scary than when your newborn child starts to fall ill, and I felt that there was no compassion, reassurance or indeed any understanding from this paramedic, which I feel is contrary to what someone in that position should offer. It's not as if we were drunks or criminals, and to be honest, it can be off-putting with regards to calling for an ambulance again, thankfully I haven't been in a situation that necessitated me requiring an ambulance.

I would like to state that what I have written is what I believe to be true and to the best of my recollection. However since it's been over 2 years since the incident, some of the key details have become a little spotty and I apologise for any omittances or misleadings, these are not intentional and I apologise for any discrepancies that arise.

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Response from Louise Ewing, Patient Relations Manager, NHS Fife

picture of Louise Ewing

Dear Concernedparent2014

Thank you for taking the time to tell us about your experience, which clearly has been niggling away at you for the last two years. That must have been such a frightening experience! I am just so pleased to hear that you have a perfect 2 year old boy, what a relief for you to get to the bottom of the problem. I will make sure to share your post with the A/E staff and with our staff in paediatrics as it reminds us of the importance of listening to parents and taking what is said seriously.

Thank you for taking the time to tell us about your experience.


Louise Ewing

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Response from Heather Kenney, Director of Strategy and Planning, Scottish Ambulance Service

Dear Concernedparent2014

Thank you for taking the time to share this with us. I am so sorry to hear that you felt so aggrieved and angry with the way in which your care was delivered by our staff and also that this has been troubling you for such a long time. I can fully appreciate how frightening it must have been and I am so sorry you found our staff to be so unsympathetic and lacking compassion.

Like Louise in NHS Fife its great to know that your son has fully recovered. Please don't ever feel anxious about calling for an ambulance if a similar situation occurs.

I lead on Quality Improvement within the ambulance service and one of our key programmes of work is focussed on how we support our staff to be far more person centred and to think about how their approach might affect people particualrly when they are in a situation such as yours and are anxious or distressed.

I appreciate that you do not want to attribute blame regarding this incident but please feel free to contact me if you think that talking this through with someone in person might help. Please contact me at heather.kenney@nhs.net or on 0131 314 0113│Internal Ext 3813.

With best wishes to you and your family

Heather Kenney

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