Days 7&8Posted: January 5, 2011
And so it goes on…….
The following day I was on the ward with my Mother, who is sadly still very unwell, when a nurse appeared clutching a file. She told the nurse who was working at this end that she had brought Mrs X up and wanted to give her the file. Nursey on our ward said she could not take her as she hadn’t been informed. There was a loud conversation about whether or not this woman had or had not had a stroke, the shortage of staff and how busy there were (of course) and that the ward knew nothing about her. There was clearly a power struggle going on and it was not held in hushed tones. I was genuinely shocked when I realised that, outside the open doors, in the corridor and within earshot, were the woman herself on a bed and her husband, who looked agonised. There was no-one with them.
After this conversation petered out the womans bed was brought in – I noticed that no-one said anything to the couple, just wheeled the bed in. There was no locker or table and no-one tried to address this. This poor man just stood there, arms hanging by his side, clearly distressed and equally clearly not knowing what to do. Not a single nurse spoke to him. He was offered a cup of tea (hallelujah!) by a domestic, but had nowhere to put it. He asked a passing nurse (I don’t know if she was at this end or not), timidly “what’s wrong with my wife”. She turned to leave and said on her way through the door “we won’t know until tomorrow”. That was it. That was the level of engagement, interaction, support, whatever you want to call it. And there was nothing I could do except smile and offer that familiar sort of “in the trenches” solidarity that visitors often strike up, often wordlessly. I had no information for him, had only a bit of kindness to offer. Which was considerably more than the people with “care” in their job description had done so far, in my line of sight. My Kind Nurses were not working that evening
The next afternoon he is still there. He said to me “I still don’t know what is wrong with my wife. Is that a doctor? [pointing at a man striding through the ward]” This was late afternoon the following day. No one had introduced themselves, no one had explained what was happening, he did not even know who the doctors were. Bear in mind I am now forever labelled as a “problem” for this staff group: within a couple of minutes of me starting to talk to him within earshot of the nurses and doctors and me asking if he knew anything yet, miraculously a nurse and a doctor decided to speak with him. Hooray.
Now for PALS. This stands for Patient Advice and Liaison Service. I had a phone call from one of their representatives about the official complaint I have made which references this blog. The conversation can be summarised as follows:
- PALS has been amalgamated with the NHS complaints service
- My complaint is too narrative (in the form of a blog) and I need to summarise it
- The complaint is too long for them to read as they do not have enough time
- I should speak to the ward staff if I have clinical concerns as PALS cannot help because they are not clinical.
I have attached, below, the response I sent back:
“Thank you for your telephone call yesterday. As I have not yet had the confirmation email from you that we discussed I am responding to you myself.
After a period of reflection, I find that I am gravely insulted by the organisational response to my complaint. Your own contribution, which centred on informing me that you were unable to help with clinical matters and that I should speak to ward staff (as if I had not done so) and indicating that my complaint was incorrectly formatted and asking me to re-do it was typical of the level of competence and sensitivity I have already encountered across the services. You went so far as to state that there was a time factor and it would take the people investigating too long to read my blog. That alone leaves me speechless.
I have submitted my complaint, which is ongoing and will increase with each blog, the next one of which will go out this evening. It is not my job to do the work for the organisation – I expect this to be investigated and I expect a respectful and proper response, whatever the format in which I have submitted. If an articulate and thorough narrative is not sufficient I wonder how others less familiar with the complaints process and health organisations would fare? I will not, therefore, be re-formatting or summarising – that is your job.
You have indicated that PALS and the organisations complaints response service are amalgamated. May I ask if there is not a conflict of interest? Certainly when we spoke I found no support for patient care or patients rights but considerable emphasis on the organisations rights and requirements.
I have to add: if someone had submitted a damning, articulate and far reaching complaint such as this about one of my services I would have responded in person, have had the courtesy to have read the article, and would be on the wards very quickly to have a proper look, however senior or otherwise my position in the organisation. I will also add that absolutely nothing that I have seen or heard has restored any confidence at all in the services ability to effectively meet my Mothers needs, which is, after all, the point”.
And that is the point. This is not a nit-picking exercise, I have better things to do. I did not intend to be troublesome, had no intention of complaining, would probably sacrifice a limb rather than be doing this. My bottom line is ensuring that my Mother has the right care delivered with kindness and that I am in the loop. But having been faced, daily, with a string of casual neglect, unkindness and sheer incompetence how can I ignore it not only for my own Mother but also for the next person to find? The issues exposed here are major in terms of practice, but manageable if managed effectively. It is not about money, it is about leadership, effective management and zero tolerance of poor practice underpinned by the balls to manage it.