"Nightmare handling by Royal Free during..."

About: Royal Free Hospital

What I liked

I liked the proximity of the hospital to our home in Hampstead. All other things proving equal, this alone might have made the Royal Free our hospital of choice for our maternity needs should we not decide to go with private care. However, on the basis of this experience-- the very first time we had a serious emergency--Royal Free's inept and unprofessional handling of the situation has made me very happy to travel more than twice the distance to receive competent treatment at another London hospital in the future.

What could be improved

After having just been informed by our private OBGYN about serious concerns of an ectopic pregnancy we were referred straight to A&E that afternoon. As Chelsea & Westminster was closer to his office, we sought initial treatment by there. The staff at C&W was extremely professional and efficient in a way I could not fully appreciate until experiencing how the same situation is handled at the Royal Free. They had a patient assessment nurse that immediately helps determine which patients' conditions are of a more urgent nature. This is a seemingly obvious measure, yet it's outrageous that the Royal Free does not provide the same kind of basic evaluation process upon registration.

With follow up tests pending, I was eventually released but directed to go immediately to A&E should I start to experience bleeding, pain or extreme dizziness. The next night I began to experience all 3, and after nearly collapsing at our home, my husband rushed me to the Royal Free due to its proximity.

Upon arrival, my husband had to support me to help me stand while registering my details and when we told her about our Doctor's ectopic concerns and my obviously deteriorating condition (indicative of a possible tubal rupture) we were robotically told to take a seat and someone would see us "when they could." After sitting about 5 minutes and watching not a single one of the 20+ people in the waiting area being called for their turn, my husband inquired what kind of wait we might be expecting, but received very little info or response. We then made the decision to leave and risk getting to St. Mary's in Paddington.

In contrast, when we arrived at St. Mary's, I was immediately assisted with a wheelchair by one of their medics and brought in for immediate evaluation, being informed my condition is classified as potentially critical and needs to be seen straight away.

Anything else?

I can't comment on the competency of the medical staff or the quality of patient care once in treatment as sadly we never got that far. I can only say that if the medical care is of a respectable quality, the very poor administration side and lack of any basic patient evaluation measures is failing them severely. Under normal circumstances, we would be happy to sit and wait however long, and we are understanding of the strains put on NHS staff and facilities. However, in certain emergency scenarios when the situation is far more critical, it speaks volumes for a patient to risk actually leaving an A&E in order to try to make it to another hospital to receive better (or in this case, any) care. A huge failure by the Royal Free.

Story from NHS Choices

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