Posted by Concerned next of kin (as ),
My 87 year old mother, who lives on her own, was admitted to the AMU at Victoria Hospital following referral by her GP; this was following a relatively short but significant period of illness. One of the symptoms she was suffering from was struggling to breathe. The tests she underwent revealed that she had suffered a 'minor' heart attack; she was subsequently transferred to a respiratory ward for ongoing treatment.
I am mums next of kin (and only child) and live approx 120 miles away. On being notified of her admission I traveled up to Blackpool to be with mum. On arrival at the hospital I was allowed onto the ward immediately despite it being out of visiting hours. It was during this initial period when I had a discussion with the sister and staff nurse about mums condition. It was clear from the outset that mum was very anxious and did not want to be in hospital, however, I was assured that she would not be discharged (as she was not in a position to care for herself) without some form of aftercare provision being put in place.
During her stay in hospital; which was 8 days, mum repeatedly requested to be moved to another bed in order to help alleviate her boredom as the bed she was in did not have a TV/telephone provision - this was never rectified.
Mum has always had a small appetite and whilst not being hard to please has certain dislikes. On the day she was admitted to the respiratory ward, due to her not being there to make a choice from the menu, she had to take 'pot luck' from what was available, this resulted in her having a sandwich for both her lunch and evening meal. On the Sunday, on visiting mum I was told that there had been 'a mix up' with catering and that none of the patients on the ward had received the meal they had ordered. Furthermore, they were provided with one choice (the only unpopular choice) of spaghetti carbonara - mum hates pasta with a cheese sauce and so she didn't eat it. On inquiring with the staff about this I was advised that there were frequent problems with catering at weekends and all attempts to address this had failed. It is worth noting that I come from a catering background with senior management experience in large scale public sector catering operations. The deterioration in standards of catering at weekends is a common problem often caused by under-skilled/inexperienced staff being employed in the kitchens, a use of casual/agency staff who are poorly supervised or poor rota planning; often in an attempt to make budgetary savings, and/or poor communication.
Further to the above, whilst overall the care provided to mum was friendly, it lacked attention to detail and fell short of meeting mums individual needs. In respect of her diet, because of mums taste, she often went through a day without having a balanced diet - this was never monitored or identified.
Moving on to the most worrying part, I turn to her discharge. As detailed above, I had discussed mums situation in respect of her care on discharge. On the Tuesday I had also discussed in detail that I had to go away for a few days (to attend a family funeral) and impressed the importance of my being there on mums discharge so that I could ensure she received the support and care she need. I was assured that nothing would happen until I returned and that there was a discharge/aftercare team that would become involved to ensure her continuity of care after discharge and that she would not be discharged until everything required to ensure her safety and care was in place. Needless to say this did not happen. On the Friday morning mum informed me that she had been told she was being discharged; nothing had been put in place for her ongoing care! ! Fortunately, mum was taken home by friends who stayed with her until I was able to return on the Monday.
Despite several phone calls to try and rectify her being discharged, she was discharged "on medical advice"! !
In summary, mums time in hospital identified a number of failings/shortcomings in respect of acceptable standards and a lack of communication. Fortunately, in this case I was able to arrange the necessary support and care via the Social Services who have been excellent - I only wish I could say the same for those provided at Victoria Hospital! ! Sadly, the nature of this story would appear not to be an isolated case with a number of friends and staff who have worked in the hospital acknowledging that this has happened before and that the problems I have identified are long standing. The eventual outcome for an elderly individual who did not have the network of friends and family necessary to ensure the individuals needs were met may have been very different and it is essential that this unacceptable standard is addressed immediately. I acknowledge the financial pressures that public services and in particular the health services are under and that hospitals are under staffed, however, this is not an excusable excuse for poor standards of service or poor patient care.
In addition to this providing this 'story' I have written a formal letter of complaint to The Chief Executive of the hospital trust.