"Noisy, hot room not the best place for a polysomnography"

About: Heartlands Hospital / Respiratory medicine

(as the patient),

Following a referral by my GP for poor sleep I was sent an appointment for an overnight stay & polysomnography test at Heartlands Birmingham. Helpful appointment letter explaining what would happen & instructions on what to take & where to go. Appointment duly arrived & off I went. Not knowing the hospital layout I enquired at the main reception as to the location of ward 25 & was handed a laminated card with what appeared to be helpful directions on it & was directed to the escalators by a dissinterested receptionist. A quick look at my instruction card confirmed ward 25 was on the first floor & to take the escalators to get there. After 10 minutes of back & fourth trying to find ward 25 on that floor I discovered I was in fact on the ground floor -the main entrance is actually a basement level.

Initially I thought the card was a great idea but it would appear nobody actually bothered to "test" it's correctness. I suggest you test it on someone who has never been to heartlands before & ask them to follow it to the letter.

So, after eventually finding & checking into ward 25 I was hooked up to a monitoring unit with copious amounts of glue, cables & straps. Although the gentleman who did it found the time to tell me that he did not get paid for doing it & that he & his brother ran a lucrative property business, had a cat, 3 chidren & an Audi he was unable to find the time to tell me much about my stay & test. At no point did he tell me about the camera & that I would be filmed, no reassurance about who would see the results -for all I know there could be people worldwide giggling while watching me on some medical version of you-tube. He didn't show me the separate light switch or tell me that I could turn it off if I wanted. He placed a clipboard with some sheets of paper on it & a pen saying it was a questionnaire to be filled out in the morning -he negated to mention that other information in there was frequently asked questions & information which would put me more in the picture & make me more as ease during my stay, -I only came across this the following morning when I filled out the required form. So off he went & I tried to settle. The room was a little stuffy for my liking so I opened the window -it was fitted with a safety bar so it could only be opened a couple of inches, maybe to prevent sleepless patients throwing themselves out of it. However this window is built into a recess so could only open into its own aperture impeding a flow of fresh air but still allowing the full sound of the plant room in its shared courtyard. I have an app on my phone which measured the noise at the window at a constant 60 decibels, maybe not the best place to site a polysomnography unit.

So as you can imagine, me with a sleep problem, in a hot stuffy room with the drone of the plant & the light on -it was the early hours before I found the switch to turn the light off- out of their comfort zone in a very uncomfortable bed, -the morning technician smirked when he asked if I'd enjoyed feeling the bed bars through the thin mattress, apparently the beds arrived with thicker luxurious mattresses that had been recently swapped for the thin ones though he could offer no explanation why- I can honestly say I had one of the worst nights sleep in recent years!

Overall it was not a good experience & I should imagine the results recorded will indeed show a man who slept badly, however this may well be 90% due to the surroundings. In my humble opinion this whole operation could have been made so much better if all parties concerned were to put themselves in the patients position & look outwards instead of expecting the patient to know as much as they do.

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Response from Simon Jarvis, Head of Patient Engagement, Heart Of England NHS Foundation Trust We have made a change

picture of Simon Jarvis

Dear Sleepless in Surburbia

Thank you for leaving this feedback and I am sorry for any confusion caused when you were given the direction card to ward 25 and indeed for any poor service that you received from our reception staff. I have also passed your feedback onto sleep apnoea team as I do appreciate how important it is to have a clinic like this in comfortable surroundings.

In terms of actions we have already changed the cards so these are more accurate and I have personally spoken to the reception team about their conduct.

I will request the more comfortable mattresses are brought back out into the Apnoea clinic as a matter of urgency and that ventilation is re-visited. I also think you have raised a very important point concerning how you were briefed about what was going to happen and will speak with the management of this service to ensure the issues you have highlighted are addressed appropriately. This will include a conversation with the the member of staff you refer to so that they are fully aware of their conduct and how this was perceived

Thank you, once again, for taking the time to leave this feedback.

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Update posted by Sleepless in suburbia (the patient)

Wow! When I wrote my entry I thought that it would merely be a way for me to vent my frustration into the electronic ethos before it was thrown into an virtual bin.

Not so, the item was checked & posted within hours, then within 72 hours a lengthy detailed response from somebody who has obvously read & considered my entry, not just some standard statement from a body just going through the motions.

This highlights the reassuring fact that there are as many good things within the NHS as there are bad. The parking was excellent with reassuring security. The unit was spotless, not just clean but spotless, without the nasty lingering detergent "fresh" smell that used to turn your stomach in every hospital & school corridor.

The morning technician & his assistant were so proud of their craft that despite it getting close to end their night shift they fussed around their miserable charge - made even more miserable by a lack of sleep & having what little hair I have left stuck into clumps with blobs of monitor wire glue - making sure I was fed & watered, explaining that the results would be digested & the result would be sent on as well as taking great detail in how to exit the car park in the absence of a security man at the barrier.

Well done, I find it really encouraging when technology allows exchanges like this instead of just electronically going through the motions.

Updates, changes and questions related to this story