"Poor Communication around my Mother's Discharge"

About: Ayr Hospital Scottish Ambulance Service / Patient Transport Service

(as a parent/guardian),

My mother has been in Ayr hospital for two months, she was transferred there from the Isle of Arran because she was so ill that she needed more specialist care. She has received some excellent care but I feel that communication from the hospital to me, her next of kin and attorney, who lives in England, has been terrible.

This culminated this evening in a phone call telling me, that my mother had been discharged to the Isle of Arran, to a nursing home with no clean clothes, because the ambulance would only take one bag. When I rang back the nurse concerned had gone off duty 6 minutes later. My mother is therefore in a new environment with dementia and none of her own clothes to change into. I am far away with no way of getting her clothes from Ayr hospital to the nursing home in Arran. I was in the hospital very recently when she was supposed to be discharged and nobody told me this.

I arranged for her laundry to be done by a local lady because I live so far away and the hospital would not do it (which I feel is rather sad) this person went in yesterday to collect the dirty laundry wash it and it and return it to the hospital today to ensure that my mother had her clothes clean to be discharged with her. Nobody told the contractor that the laundry she had done would not be going with my mother.

Why was this information not given to me when I could do something about it, the staff know I live far away and was unable to come up for a second week following her delayed discharge. When they hadn't told me could they not make an exception to the one bag rule in the circumstances. It wasn't a very big bag, just a 'carry on' bag with wheels. Why is it acceptable to let an old lady spend time with no clothes and in a dressing gown because the hospital is, in my opinion, disorganised and have poor communications and the discharge is so badly effected.

What can I possibly do from here before her clothes are lost forever?

If I had not had three trips to Scotland to accompany her on previously aborted discharges I would've been there myself. Despite the assertion of the nurse that I should have been there to accompany my mother I have a job in England and have tried to accompany her on three occasions. I feel very sad at the nursing potation that it is my shortcoming that has resulted in my having to have her luggage couriered from Ayr to Arran.  Anyone who has a job will know how difficult it is to get four sets of four days off from work in a three month period.  I think the nurse should have been kinder and the ambulance service are real bunch of jobsworths.

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Response from Eunice Goodwin, Patient Feedback Manager for NHS Ayrshire and Arran, Quality Improvement and Governance Team, NHS Ayrshire and Arran

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Dear Kipper,

I am so sorry you have experienced this. It is hard enough when a loved one is ill and needing hospitalised without the added complexities you have had. I would like to find out more about the situation with discharge and the Ambulance service before I go on. I am not ignoring the other issues here but I would like to speak to people first and I promise I will come back to you after that.

It will have been a very disruptive time for you both, I hope your Mum is now settled back at home and is keeping well.

Kind regards,
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Response from Eunice Goodwin, Patient Feedback Manager for NHS Ayrshire and Arran, Quality Improvement and Governance Team, NHS Ayrshire and Arran

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Dear Kipper

I really appreciate the difficulty that the distance between you and your Mum can make in many situations and I am so sorry it has proven so during this recent hospital encounter. I am also sorry; this follow-up response may seem less than helpful and took some time.

It seems a no brainer that communication about your mother’s care should be straight forward, unfortunately, communication by telephone can be a mine field for staff while trying to protect privacy of individuals. Having said that, it seems a little contradictory that you can be contacted after discharge but not before. I would think the issues of confidentiality should be the same in both situations. Without knowing the specific details, it would be difficult to comment specifically but I can look into this if you would like me to.

I also understand why you were concerned with your Mum being in a different environment when we know that this can be distressing to anyone, but more so when people suffer from dementia. It is certainly not an ideal situation and clearly worrying for you.

While delayed discharge can be valid, you raise the issue of communication again, again I can look into this with more details from you.

Regarding the issue about your Mum’s clothes, again, I really do see the problem for you here and I’m so sorry I don’t have any magic answers. I hope you have ‘caught up with them. If you have not, please let me know and I will investigate, again I need details to do so.

I have spoken with colleagues from the ambulance service, patient transport and know they will be in contact with you.

I really hope your Mum has settled on her return to Arran. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if there is any aspect of your concerns you want me to look into or if there is anything else I can help with. If you would like me to look into things further for you, please contact me by email - eunice.goodwin@aapct.scot.nhs.uk or phone on 01563 826222.

Best wishes,


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Response from Pauline Archibald, National Deputy Head of Ambulance Control Centres, Scottish Ambulance Service

Dear Kipper

My colleague, Eunice Goodwin from NHS Ayrshire and Arran has brought this matter to my attention. I was sorry to hear about the problems you experienced during the transfer of your mother back to Arran after a lengthy hospital stay. I can understand your frustration, particularly as you live so far away, and regret that we did not accommodate all her needs in transferring her back to Arran.

We do have a policy in place which restricts the amount of luggage taken by patients as this can pose problems during busy periods and when our vehicles are filled with patients. However, in this case, we should have exercised our discretion in taking your mother’s second bag rather than rigidly applying the policy. We will ask staff to reflect on this when making such decisions in the future.

Our Patient Transport staff do a wonderful job transporting around 1.1 million patients every year with compassion and care. I regret that we did not demonstrate this to your mother on this occasion. I hope that your mother is continuing to improve now that she is back in Arran.

I am not sure if your mother’s bag has now been returned to her but if there is anything I can do to help, please contact me by email, pauline.archibald@nhs.net or phone on 07881356449.

Best wishes


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Update posted by Kipper (a parent/guardian)

Easy to say comfortable words. It is much harder to make an appreciable difference. If a patients nearest relative is five hours drive away what is the real chance of 1) a meaningful telephone call to keep them up to date 2) someone washing their knickers 3) after three trips up from Yorkshire for aborted discharges, some compassion for my pain on not being able to be there when it actually happened.