"I found the disregard shown to me during that visit truly breath-taking"

About: Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust Queen's Medical Centre / Accident and emergency

(as the patient),

A couple of years ago, I had the misfortune of being admitted to the QMC Nottingham A & E department by ambulance. I fell unwell at home due to my chronic renal failure, which I've had for 20 years. Because of this illness, a visit to the hospital is not that unusual for me and I wasn't too concerned. I arrived in the A & E department at the QMC with an erratic heart rate and told the triage nurse the quick version of my medical history. Subsequently, a couple of blood tests were quickly ordered. While I waited for the results I started to vomit and a passing doctor stopped by. At first, I thought he might ask if I was okay but all he said was "I suppose you were out drinking too much last night" and then walked off.

After a while it became clear that the reason I was so sick was that my potassium level had increased dramatically, which can happen in renal patients. Because of this, it was decided that I should be removed to the City Hospital, which is where the renal centre in Nottingham is located. After about 5 hours in QMC A & E, I was told an ambulance was waiting to take me to the City Hospital. I was put into the ambulance and brought to a general ward in the City Hospital and told to occupy a particular bed. Now I knew that the staff in the renal ward were waiting for me to arrive and wondered why I was in this general ward.

After about an hour of waiting in this bed, I approached the doctor on duty in the ward and told them that I thought I was in the wrong place, that in fact I should be in the renal ward because my potassium levels were too high. Their response literally was to say they didn’t know who I was! Considering that I was occupying a bed in the ward they were sitting in, I thought that they might have been curious as to who I was but apparently not.

It was actually left to me to explain to the doctor that I should have been sent to the renal ward and that I was pretty sure there had been a mistake. After about another half hour the doctor returned to say that, yes, they had worked out that I should have been in the renal ward but wouldn't be able to go until the morning. By this stage in the story it was about 10 pm and I had not had a single thing to eat or drink since entering the A & E department in the QMC 6-7 hours before. For some reason I was then moved to another ward within the City hospital - not the renal ward - but I decided to let that go for the night.

The remarkable thing is that when I finally did arrive in the renal ward the next morning, I was told that they had my bed waiting for me and were wondering where I was the whole time.

My story doesn't end in disaster as I ultimately made a recovery and I guess no-one got really hurt. However, even I still find it hard to believe that I had to tell the medical staff which ward I should have been sent to. If I hadn't spoken up, how long might I have been left in the wrong bed in the wrong ward? The truly scary thing is that there are many many more patients who don't know one ward (or doctor) from another and will assume that they're in the right place and getting the right care.

Furthermore, it really is a horrible thing to lie in a bed with dangerously high potassium levels and for the doctor's immediate assumption to be that it is the result of alcohol. I wasn't sick because of alcohol but, even so, what if it was? Does everyone not deserve the same level of respect, regardless of their illness?

I found the disregard (and in one particular case disrespect) shown to me during that visit truly breath-taking.

Unfortunately, I know that because of my medical condition, I will very soon be making a return visit to either the QMC or Nottingham City Hospital and, I have to confess, I dread the prospect.

Funnily enough, soon after this incident, I received a letter from Nottingham University Hospitals Trust, which asked me to become a member. I did not reply.

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