"Excellent medical care, but careless mistakes..."
About: John Radcliffe Hospital John Radcliffe Hospital Oxford OX3 9DU
I went to A&E with a heavy, unstoppable nosebleed that had been going on for 3 hours. After a few hours I was seen, the bleeding was staunched and I was admitted to the ENT ward for further treatment. I would like to say here how extremely grateful I am for the effectiveness of the treatment I received and for the very comfortable ward where I stayed.
However, there was a problem with the instructions left by the doctor about my overnight care. I had vomited over 1 litre of blood in A&E, and also lost a large quantity during the c.6 hours of my nosebleed, and I was in considerable pain from the procedures I had had. The doctor prescribed painkillers which they said the nurse would bring me, and. also that I could have food (the bleeding having started before breakfast, I had eaten nothing for 24 hours already, apart from a pot of dessert, some orange juice, and milk that a nurse had given me on my coming to the ward.)
The ENT ward was very busy at handover time, so I was perpared to wait; however, by 2 hours later the pain was distressing, so I rang for a nurse. The nurse seemed surprised that I hadn't had the painkillers, and brought some, but said there wasn't anything to eat. During the night I was in more pain, so they gave me some more painkillers. In A&E I had been told I could have a saline spray for the dryness in my throat consequent upon having to breathe through my mouth (my nostril was packed to stop the bleeding); but the night nurse could not reach the duty doctor for permission for this, so it never arrived.
By next morning I was extremely hungry, and the pain had not abated. Someone came to take my blood pressure, but said it wasn't their job (I'm sure it wasn't) to see about food or painkillers; so around 7 I rang for a nurse, who said, to my surprise, that the nurse wasn't sure whether I could have painkillers but they would see, and would ask about food. Nothing happened. Shortly after 8 the doctors came round, declared my progress satisfactory, and said, again, that I could have food and painkillers. I waited, but by around 9,30 (I think) I had become pretty desperate - nobody seemed to be willing to give me any painkillers or food, despite my pleading and what the doctors were saying. I could not see how to get anyone to help me, so I rang my husband and asked him to come and find out why I was being treated like this.
He duly did so, and discovered that the main source of the problem was that somebody had put ‘nil by mouth’ my patient board.
Once this was pointed out, the day staff, to their credit, took care to attend to me. Now, I do realise that the ward was very busy; but nursing mistakes can, at worst, change lives. Obviously mine was not in such danger - though someone who has lost a lot of blood probably needs building up rather than starving; but the evident failure to act correctly on doctor’s instructions must be something that should be looked at, since it has the obvious potential to undermine their care and expertise.