"My time at Leicester General Hospital"

About: Leicester General Hospital

(as the patient),

I came in to Leicester General Hospital on a Monday night due to severe pain from a cyst on my left ovary. I was seen by a doctor after five hours of waiting. She advised that I would need to stay in ward 31 for a scan and that she would draw up a chart of painkillers for me to help with the pain I was suffering. I went to bed and was given painkillers. I was told to eat, then another nurse came while I had a half eaten apple in my hand. She told me that I was not to eat. I then tried to sleep, but couldn't due to being extremely cold. I got up FOUR times to ask for a blanket from the nurses. This was not provided and I eventually fell asleep shivering under my coat. In the morning, I was refused food and drink and kept awaiting my scan. I was also refused the medication I needed to control the pain I was in.

How did this refusal take place? Well, every single time I struggled up to the nurses station to ask for it, I was told to go back to my bed and wait for it to be brought to me. Take note of this, because it was an unbelievably common occurrence. My walking was severely impaired due to the pain I was in and the number of times I slowly struggled up to the nurses station after hours of waiting, usually to have to sit on the floor as I was unable to stand only to then be ignored by several nurses and doctors who refused to answer the simple questions, what are you doing with me? and when will somebody come to me with pain relief? The pain relief was supplied sporadically, but in no possible way was it supplied promptly and many us on the ward were allowed to feel the full effects of our pain medication wearing off hours before fresh medication was supplied. I am no idiot and I am now and was then well aware of the importance of keeping pain medication constantly topped up to appreciate the full effect.

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One old woman across the ward from me was allowed by the collective staff to poo herself and the bed she was unable to move from THREE times to the poor woman's embarrassment and distress before the nurses call a doctor who could prescribe to the woman her diarrhoea medication which she had sitting in her purse on the side table waiting the entire time. Seeing this old woman who was the age of my grandmother crying in her bed is a sight I will not forget in a hurry. This woman called me over to her and asked me to fetch the control to summon a nurse which was just out of reach from her.

After eighteen hours of waiting I was finally wheeled up to the scan department. I had been allowed to spend the previous night at home, which I pushed for simply because although I was fearful for my heath I knew that I would at least have access to my own medication and I would take it regularly! The previous day had been a hell for me. I was seen by a doctor who casually mentioned that the cyst could have twisted around my ovary and killed it. I am a recently married woman and I am very much looking forward to starting a family having lost a child five years ago. This information was a horror to me and I cannot explain the agony I suffered while desperately trying to get someone to help me. I was ignored by everyone until finally my husband arrived from work to find me sobbing my heart out. I had begun to feel as a lonely old woman in a terrible nursing home must feel. He marched in to the ward and demanded to be told what was happening to me. I only wish that the ninety year old husband of the incontinent lady on the ward could have done the same.

Finally, a doctor agreed to speak to me. The first thing she did was to laugh at me, followed by the nurse who was charged with my care. They told me that if this had happened I would be in such a great amount of pain there would be no way I could manage the small shuffling steps I was reduced to.

After the scan I was left back on the ward for about four hours with the same rigmarole of trying to get someone to help me and asking for pain medication which the nurses who were on duty at the time were again extremely reticent to dispense. I would like to say that the staff in the scan department were polite, friendly and generally very nice. Sometime in the afternoon I began to experience very painful heartburn due to being refused food almost constantly for two days. Once more I made the slow, agonizing journey to the nurses station to ask if I could please be given food or heartburn medication. A nurse advised me that I was indeed allowed to eat and provided me with a yogurt to sooth my stomach. The question then arose that if I was entitled to food, why had I been waiting all day without it? I posed this to the nurses and they then advised me that I was certainly not allowed to eat as I was meant to be in surgery later. This then meant that I had to wait an additional six hours on the ward before I could be considered a candidate for surgery.

If the NHS struggles for beds, I can quite easily see why. The next six hours then passed without much incident, except for the constant refusal to help me in any way. Perhaps the nurses were busy you might ask. Well, at times certainly they were, but definitely not always. Why was my care not a priority at any point including the time the nurses where chatting about a dinner party they had been invited to?

Once I was wheeled to the surgical department, the most horrific part of my story came. I was kept in the anesthetic room for about an hour while one of the anesthetists had been called off to tend to a woman who was in considerable pain. This was no problem to me as I am a reasonable woman. I was quite content to wait if there was an emergency. The staff in this department were as in the scan department. Very friendly and professional. It was a great relief to be treated like a human being and not some terrible nuisance. The staff were not the problem. After about an hour I asked them if I could go to the bathroom. They said, 'Oh, don't worry about that because we're going to catheterize you.' This was the first I had heard about it and I would not have even been told about it, if not for this circumstance of events. This information was extremely distressing and I cannot believe that no one had thought to inform me of it or ASK MY PERMISSION. For several horrible minutes I fought the compulsion to march right out of there. Is this your standard procedure? To this day I feel disgusted and violated by this and I am lucky to even know about it. Whether I am under anesthetic or not, I am still a human being and I wish to be informed about any plans to put medical equipment into my body. I actually feel physically sick at the thought. And how terrible for the kind staff in this department to have to be the ones to deal with my upset. I was told that a tube would be put down my throat. Surely you have some obligation to inform me of a catheter? I don't even know what else was done to me because I was too frightened to ask.

After some hours, I was woken up by a very lovely lady in recovery. She gave me painkillers immediately when I could speak to tell her I was in pain and she found me a blanket straight away when I was shivering with cold. She told me the operation to drain the cyst had been successful and that I would be taken back to the ward where I would be given more painkillers and a chance to sleep. The difference between the level of care in the recovery department and the ward was so marked that I was in tears after just a few minutes.

There was no mention of the strong painkillers I was supposed to have. I asked for some food. It had now been three days and I had barely eaten for the whole span of time. The nurse asked me if I would like some toast. I said yes please! She asked me if I would like white bread or brown. I said brown. I am not supposed to eat white bread. She returned with toast made with white bread. I was so hungry by this point that I accepted it, but it just goes to show the level of blindness the nurses have to their charges. I attempted to eat the toast, but due to a terrible dry mouth caused by the anaesthetic the bread simply collected into a big ball in my mouth and I was unable to swallow it. At this point I was sick and please note the fact that the nurse was very quick to find me something to throw up in. The inconvenience of cleaning me and my bed would have personally affected her after all! I then asked if I could please have a yogurt to eat because I was unable to eat the toast. I feel the nurse then acted like this was an insane request She said she would look for one for me later. I burst into tears at this point and said, 'No I haven't eaten for three days. Please, get me something I can eat now!' She left the room. I watched the clock for fifteen minutes. Nothing. I tried to find the button to summon the nurse. Lo and behold, it had been placed out of my reach. In an extreme of frustration I managed to somehow ignore the agony in my belly and pull myself up to reach the cord to call a nurse. After this exhausting mission I was then told off by the nurse. I once again repeated that I had not eaten for three days and that I needed some food. It seem to me that the nurses were not busy. It was approaching midnight and the ward was quiet. The nurse told me that she would look for a yogurt for me 'in a bit' but right now she apparently needed to go around the ward and take all four women's blood pressure etc. The fact that she was only in the room because I had summoned her did not escape me. I thought that I was going to have to call my husband to get him out of bed several miles away to bring me a yogurt. During this, a kind fellow patient opposite me told the nurse that she had a yogurt in her bag and that I was welcome to it. However the nurse did not bring be the yogurt the ill lady did. So in my opinion my care was left to the fellow patients, who seemed to have more compassion and interest in me than some of the nurses did.

Hoping it ends there? Yes, so was I. The nurse then decided half way through my trying to eat that it was time to switch off the lights. She came over to me and shone a very bright bedside light in my face and told me that I needed it to see the yogurt. I advised her that I did not need it. There were large windows in the ward looking onto the corridor and I could see quite well by them. She again told me that I did need the light and walked off, after handing me the button to summon her. I reluctantly ate the yogurt under the glare of this light. Then I summoned her to tell her that the light that I'd told her I didn't want on in the first place could now be turned off. What a waste of time. I tried to sleep for some time, but was kept awake by pain. I summoned the nurse and she provided me with the medication I was supposed to be given on my return to the ward.

I then became aware that I was far too hot. The other patients on the ward agreed with me that it was too hot the next morning. I tried pushing the blankets off me, but I was still feeling very stifled by the temperature. Once again I summoned the nurse. She arrived immediately. She then said, 'Well, I'll just push these blankets off you.' I advised her that I had already pushed them off me and that I wanted a fan. She said and I quote, 'Ok, well I'll just push these blankets off you and then you buzz me if you're still hot.' Then she walked off. Heavy sigh. I am still too hot. So I called her again and she turned up. I asked for a fan. She took my temperature and she then told me, that from a clinical point of view I did not need a fan. At what point does somebody clinically need a fan? I said to her, 'I don't care what my temperature is. I'm telling you I'm too hot and I would like a fan so you decide whether you want to help me or not'. She told me that there were no fans on the ward. 'There are two in the waiting room!' I told her. Finally she agreed to get me a fan. What a waste of time. In the morning, I was once again refused pain medication. I asked several times and was always told to simply wait longer. I was also told to find my own breakfast but I could barely move!

In a final pique of frustration I called my husband and told him to come and get me. I was in no way ready to leave hospital and be by myself at home, but with the ridiculous standard of care offered by the ward I figured I'd be better off at home with a mobile phone, a bottle of water and most importantly at this stage, my painkillers. I struggled to the nurses station and they got a discharge letter and my tablets. Only one very young and kind nurse offered to take the long slow walk with me out of the hospital to my husband's car. And there ends my tale of my treatment on ward 31's staff. After my experience, am I scared to go into hospital again? Yes, very.

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