"This ward needs a major shake up"

About: Southend Hospital / General medicine

(as a relative),

I can identify fully with the complaint on this site regarding Eleanor Hobbs ward and how elderly patients are treated.

My elderly mother has vascular dementia, severe osteoporosis, cannot walk and is totally incontinent, and is presently in this ward. Her health is failing fast.

She was admitted with a severe lower respiratory tract infection from the Care Home where she is a resident.

(1) She was given antibiotics and declared "medically fit" about 48 hours after admission, even though the terrible, deep chesty cough had not improved and her condition had actually gone downhill. She was now permanently drowsy, even though she had been alert and chatting when first admitted. I spoke to (quite an arrogant) young doctor who said indications were that the infection had gone. I questioned this, but was told she was in his opinion, "medically fit" - (how I hate this term. ) A staff member from her care home was subsequently summoned to "assess" mum for discharge. She took one look at her and said that she was worse than when she was admitted, and there was no way she would be going back there in such a bad condition. However, she stood at the nurses desk in the ward for a good 15 minutes without any acknowledgement and absolutely no eye contact from any member of staff. This had happened to both my husband and I on previous occasions when we had waited patiently to ask some questions. In fact, a couple of weeks ago my husband had to finally ask "Is anyone here going to look at me? " The Carer was standing there when we arrived to visit, and she told us that if she was not acknowledged shortly, she would be leaving without being able to give them her decision as she had had enough.

(2) A day or so later the lady in the opposite bed to mum told me that my mum had been calling out for water/drink all night and nobody came. In the end this poor girl was so disgusted, that despite being very ill herself, she unhooked herself from her IV drip and walked over to administer water to my mum. When she questioned the nursing staff later, they said that mum had been given a call bell to press - she has dementia and cannot even remember that she is in bed, let alone press a call bell!  She also has severely arthritic fingers and would not be able to press anything! 

The lady opposite also told a story of how mum was given toast to eat by mistake (she was meant to be on fairly mushy food whilst in hospital so that they could test her ability to swallow) and was really enjoying it. (She always eats toast for breakfast at the Care Home). This was also the first thing she had eaten for a few days. Somebody rushed in (after remembering she should not be eating it) and literally snatched it out of her mouth and took it away. This lady said the sight of that will remain with her for ever.

(3) Nobody ever seems available to update you on the patients progress. My mum looked very dehydrated and her lips were peeling. Her drink was on the other side of the bed restraint bars, over which there hangs large plastic/rubber covered pads. She could (a) not remember any drink was there and (b) would not be able to reach it even if she could.

I went to seek help. I eventually was pointed in the direction of a doctor. I asked what was happening with mum regarding medication and hydration. After explaining my concerns, I was told that they can put her on a drip if we like! If we like?  I was so flabbergasted by this that I asked why it had taken me to suggest mum should be hydrated via a drip? I paused for the answer, but the answer never came. The doctor just stared at me for several seconds.

(4) Every day I would ask "what is happening with mum? " to be told that (whoever it is that I can find to ask) doesn't know, and I need to speak to someone else. I then have to line up at the nurses/doctors desk to be totally ignored. On one occasion I was passed to 3 different people, only to be told that the person I "actually" needed to speak to had gone for her break.

(5) Today we arrived to visit mum and the curtains were drawn around her. We could hear her screaming "no, no" in pain but on poking my head around the curtain, two nurses said they were just changing her and that they had finished. Subsequently another young nurse arrived to take mum's blood pressure. On pulling her arm from under the covers we were all horrified to see that her arm was very badly swollen, with a black blood blister and puss under the skin. The nurse pointed this out to another assistant, who alerted the ward sister, who in turn said she would call the duty doctor.

The duty doctor arrived and recoiled in horror at the severity of what she called "phlebitis". Mum had had a cannula in her arm but it was removed a couple of days ago. I questioned the doctor on how on earth this had not been noticed by staff today? After all, two nurses had just changed her? ! No wonder she was crying out in pain! The doctor was unable to answer saying only that they were only the Duty Doctor on Call and would not know.  I then remarked that somebody must know about it? Surely? How could a hospital have missed this or ignored it all day? (and possibly longer? )

The doctor turned and asked staff how the arm looked this morning. After thinking for several seconds, the staff suggested, a bit red. A bit red? It was obvious from their response that they did not have a clue. The Doctor then tried to move swiftly on by saying, that they know about it now.  Yes, indeed you do - but more by luck than judgement. Simply not good enough. Who is responsible then? Why do they all pass the buck?

For obvious reasons due to this phlebitis, any antibiotics now needed for this "new" infection cannot be administered via an IV drip. So now they have to try and give antibiotics via a liquid medicine, which my mother, due to her advancing dementia, cannot and will not swallow properly and will probably be either spat out or ingested into her lungs! !

To add insult to injury, a plate of mushy food had been placed on a table at the end of my mother's bed several feet away, under a plastic cover. There was evidence that somebody had stuck a spoon in it, in order to assist my mother with trying to eat. However, it had been left uneaten. The caterer came in when we were there, and asked if my mum was "finished" with it. I responded that I did not know, as I had not been there to feed her (meaning, may be you should ask a nurse? ). To my utter astonishment, she then asked the poor patient in the next bed if my mother had finished with her meal? 

This ward truly beggars belief and needs a major, major shake up. I truly fear for my elderly mother's welfare and have lost all confidence. Sadly this seems to be borne out by other people on this site with similar experiences.

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