"Dignity and basic care at Helston Community Hospital"

About: Cornwall and Isles of Scilly PCT Helston Community Hospital

(as the patient),

A friend of mine was in our local community hospital in 2005. She had advanced cancer and was admitted to enable doctors to see if they could improve her breathing. Previously she had exercised full control over her life and treatment at home with the help of the Macmillan Cancer nurses. I visited her and found a usually immaculate woman in dirty clothes, hair unbrushed and longing to get out so she could die in her own home. I asked her what had gone wrong and she told me that she needed to take an anti sickness pill an hour before meals but at lunchtime they rarely delivered her pill before the tray appeared. She had a choice of taking the pill with the food and vomiting or leaving her meal to go cold. She had tried to explain the necessity of correct timing but she had had the experience of the ward sister walking away from her while she was talking to her. She solved the problem by getting another friend to bring a pill in from home and then she took this and saved the hospital provided one, hidden away, for the next meal. I also experienced her being told that she needed to go up to the communal dining room for her meal. When she said she would prefer to eat in her room she was again told that the staff wanted her to go up to the dining room. It took my intervention to get the member of staff to agree that she could stay in her room to eat. I also had to ask to see her named nurse to get my friend told what was happening, how long she was likely to stay, because they were not discussing options with her. She did return home for a short time but was unable to remain and was admitted to our local hospice. I was privileged to be able to spend time with her and her wonderful treatment was such a contrast to that which she experienced at our community hospital.

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