"Poor communication and continuity of care"

About: Watford General Hospital

(as a relative),

My wife was referred directly to the Acute Admissions Unit (AAU) on a Friday after seeing the out of hours GP about consistent headaches and that is where the nightmare of Watford General Hospital started.

The doctor said that ideally they would like to do an MRI scan, however as it was the weekend, they couldn't do it. My wife was obviously too selfish to be ill during the week. Over the course of the whole next day (Saturday) all they managed to get done was a CT Scan which took about 15 minutes. My wife was then just lying in bed for the remainder of the day with no communication - it felt like they had forgotten her. They did say that a Lumbar Puncture would be done, however this didn't happen until Sunday afternoon.

Before the LP took place, the doctor explained the immediate risks of the procedure, but nothing about afterwards. He asked if she would mind if a junior doctor did the procedure. My wife trying to be helpful and not understanding the possible terrible after effects if not done properly, agreed to this. The junior doctor struggled with the procedure and appeared to be fumbling, the senior doctor had to take over, only then was it revealed that it was the junior doctor's first attempt! After the procedure my wife was instructed to lay flat for 2-4 hours to avoid a post lumbar puncture headache (PLPH). When she queried if she could get this headache at home, the doctor said "nothing that can't be treated with Paracetemol" - a PLPH is completely immobilising, a headache like no other.

My wife was discharged Sunday evening and only got as far as the car park before feeling unwell. Over the course of the night and into Monday she developed the headache and was confined to laying flat on her back on the sofa (whilst trying to look after our 2-year old while I was at work). She was re-admitted that evening. It was decided that a blood patch procedure would be done to stem the spinal fluid leak. However, this wasn't done until Tuesday afternoon. Following the procedure, she was placed on an old ward where out of the six patients there, three were very disruptive, not what is needed after you have been through what is quite a major procedure.

My wife was discharged on Wednesday afternoon feeling better. However, this gradually worsened as Thursday progressed. By Friday lunchtime, we were heading back to the hospital. Prior to going in, we tried to contact the AAU to avoid having to wait in A&E, however they were very unhelpful and we did have to go through A&E. After waiting for a hour or so in absolute agony, I had to find a nurse and request that my wife waited laid down on a bed. My wife was admitted to AAU as expected. The doctor who saw her that evening obviously didn't bother to read any notes as they was asking questions that my wife had already answered during the previous two visits.

The following morning, a consultant who finally showed some understanding that it had gone on too long, vowed to get it sorted and described what actions he would take, beginning with IV fluid. This was around 10am, however it then took 4. 5 hours for a nurse to come and spend the 15-20 minutes required to set it up. My wife in the intervening period was literally just lying in her bed doing nothing! At about 9: 30pm it was decided the she would be moved again on to the ward where she had previously had the unbearable experience with the disruptive patients. We do not know (and it has not been explained to her) if she will still have the same consultant who finally showed some compassion and understanding of her condition.

Over the course of the three visits so far, my view of Watford General Hospital is extremely poor! Waiting periods between anything happening in our experience has literally hours and hours; communication with my wife during these long periods has been very poor; communication between different members of staff treating my wife appeared non-existent as the same questions were asked every time a new person treated her and when I asked a nurse when the blood patch procedure would be done, she didn't have a clue who my wife was and what she was in for. Apart from the most recent consultant, the doctors and nurses didn't seem to appreciate the extent to which my wife was suffering. The ward my wife stayed on was dated and depressing. Many of the nurses didn't seem so know anything about my wife's situation and finally the car parking charges to visit my wife are extortionate!

As a result of the LP and due to the doctor not explaining the potential severity of a PLPH to my wife (which would have prevented her agreeing to it) two further visits back to the hospital were required. As well as the physical and emotional distress, this has hit us in the pocket to the tune of around £300 so far, this is because my wife has lost two days of work and also we have had to pay hospital parking charges etc.

All in all, a downright awful experience which is still not over.

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