"Whooping Cough"

About: Epsom Hospital

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I took my 16 mth daughter to Epsom A&E (recommended by NHS direct) to take her in because of her coughing and breathing in March 2013. Whilst I suggested as her mum, that I was being tested for Whooping cough and was waiting for the results to come back from my GP after having a bad cough for 6 weeks as well - asked whether it could be the same thing. The doctor in A&E asked whether she was fully vaccinated, which I replied she was fully up to date, and then answered condescendingly 'well, I doubt that then!'. Both myself and my partner (at the time of waiting had googled whooping cough on NHS website) suggested it could be possible for her to also catch it. Whilst some of the nurses and doctors that we saw were sympathetic and helpful, each different doctor would tell us conflicting information. Also because her chest was clear and oxygen levels ok, seemed to be ok inbetween the coughing episodes, none really took us seriously. One thought it was a virus, one said they had seen' similar children with coughs and there seemed to be 'so much of it around at the moment', another suggested it was asthma. Whilst we were waiting to be admitted to a ward, we met a few young children with the same cough! One parent even commented after my daughter coughed and I was describing her symptoms to a nurse, wow, that child sounds just like my child ! One doctor commented that they had themselves a cough with the same symptoms that ran on for over 6 weeks ! However, none of them seemed to register the fact that I was being tested with whooping cough! She was admitted overnight, and whilst the nurses on Casey Ward were professional and tried testing her in the end for whooping cough (unfortunately her results came back as inconslusive as they couldnt take enough blood for the test as at the time she had a coughing episide brought on by crying and pulled the needle out). She was discharged in the end with an inhaler, wheeze programme.It transpires my blood results have now come back as positive for Whooping Cough by Public Health ! I came away with thinking that the doctors dont communicate enough, the one in A&E especially would not even listen to the suggestion that my daughter could possibly have Whooping Cough as well (as was adamant that he had no report of it being in the area) and it was impossible if she has been Vaccinated. Each Doctor suggested a different thing. Whilst I appreciate that they are busy, I expect them as medical professionals to be open to suggestions and look at all the possibilities and not just dismiss every illness as another virus ! Also if they actually read up about Whooping cough, in the early stages the chest can be clear and the patient can pick up inbetween the cough and be ok in themselves. Maybe they should be testing more on the coughs that seem to be causing so many complications to our childrens breathing and actually test these incase they are also Whooping Cough as it obviously is in the area and needs to be confirmed

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Response from Epsom Hospital

Thank you for your feedback and we are glad to hear you found our nurses on Casey Ward professional. Communication is an area we are always trying to improve on, and as you pointed out, this is not always so easy in a large acute NHS Trust with 4,300 staff and hundreds of patients being treated every day for varying medical issues. Thank you for taking the time to give us your feedback and will ensure your comments are relayed back to A&E and the children's team. So sorry it took so long replying to you. Dr Ruth Charlton Joint Medical Director

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