"The care my mum got"

About: NHS 24 Ninewells Hospital Scottish Ambulance Service

(as a relative),

My mum called me recently to say that she wasn't feeling well, she had said she had a bad headache, I noticed her speech was jumbled up, it wasn't slurred she was just having difficulty finding the right word and she was confused.

Given the fact she had a stroke in January i went straight up to make sure she was OK, we decided to call NHS24. The call handler was fantastic, he listened and repeated everything back to me to make sure he was getting the right information. It was decided that given my mums previous stroke it was best to send an ambulance which we actually thought would happen. 

The ambulance arrived at my mums promptly and unfortunately this is where the level of care and compassion dropped quite dramatically.  The ambulance crew came in to my mums and started checking her vital signs and asked her a few questions. I explained what had happened before their arrival and what prompted our call to NHS24. They asked me why i called NHS24, i thought it would be fairly evident but apparently not. One of the crew then questioned if had been looking for an ambulance to be sent? Asking if it wasn't serious enough to call 999, but it was serious enough to call NHS24? I explained to them that we understand they're busy especially just now and reminded them it was NHS24 that sent them. They then said they weren't questioning my motives, but there is no reason for my mum to be conveyed to hospital. I told them that my mums confusion and jumbled up speech were not normal, my niece was also there and reiterated this to them but it made no difference. I think they had already decided that she wasn't going to be going to hospital.

They said her vitals were all normal and there was no reason to rush her to hospital. They then presented her with 3 choices, she could go to hospital (this was discouraged by the crew), they could arrange OOH GP to see her or she could wait to see her own GP in the morning (this was pushed as the preferred option by the crew). I didn't see the point in arguing with them anymore and they left, although they did say if anything worsens call them right back on 999. In all honesty we wouldn't have been calling them back to the house nor will we in the future after that particular experience. One of the crew didn't say anything out of turn they were great with my mum, it was the other staff member who made the decisions. 

We contacted my mums GP in the morning and she was told to go straight down, after carrying out a full neurological exam and knowing her history she contacted ambulance control and arranged an urgent transfer to Ninewells, the GP did say that my mum should have been seen at hospital the previous night, i'm not sure if she raised this with the ambulance service while she was on the phone to control. My mum was transferred to Ninewells by a really good crew who understood everything and her anxieties about hospitals etc. I can't fault them.

My thoughts on this are surely every crew should treat patients and their family with compassion and respect and really shouldn't be questioning their motives when they are needing help with their relatives. I have never had anything bad to say about Scottish Ambulance Service and it is regretful that i have to raise this. We won't be calling NHS24 (purely so an ambulance won't be sent by them, no other reason) or ambulance service again, i'll convey my mum to hospital myself, that way i know she will be treated with a bit of compassion and we won't get attitude from a member of staff. 

The last time this happened, the ambulance crew were amazing, there wasn't any fault to be found. they treated my mum with kindness and compassion which is a stark contrast to what happened this time. 

My mums opinion on this is if they don't want to help people when they're clearly not well then they shouldn't be in the job. The ambulance service assist people in their darkest hours or minutes and they should be trying to ease the anxiety of needing an ambulance etc, it felt like we were being berated for them being there.

It turns out my mum had had a stroke and spent 4 days in hospital, just because vital signs are normal doesn't mean someone isn't having a stroke. I'm glad the GP picked up on this quickly and she is back on the mend for a second time. If there is a 3rd, the ambulance service would be the last organisation we will be contacting. 


Response from Kenny Freeburn, Deputy Regional Director, North, Scottish Ambulance Service last month
Kenny Freeburn
Deputy Regional Director, North,
Scottish Ambulance Service
Submitted on 11/06/2020 at 16:22
Published on Care Opinion at 17:51

Dear JL59665,

I am sorry to hear of the poor experience you and your mum had on one of the occasions we attended her, I hope your mum is recovering well.

We aim to deliver a caring and compassionate service for all patients and their families and it is disappointing to hear we let you and your mum down on this occasion. Please don't let this experience prevent you from calling an ambulance in future if you need to.

With your permission I would like to arrange for a review to take place to allow us to learn from your feedback. If you would be agreeable to this, I would need a little more detail from you- I can be contacted directly at kfreeburn@nhs.net

Thank you again for sharing your experience, I am sorry that it wasn't to the high standard we expect.


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Response from Shona Lawrence, Patient Experience Manager, NHS 24 last month
Shona Lawrence
Patient Experience Manager,
NHS 24
Submitted on 11/06/2020 at 16:34
Published on Care Opinion at 16:34

picture of Shona Lawrence

Dear JL59665

I'm so sorry to learn your mum suffered a further stroke and I appreciate that this will have been a very worrying time for you all. I'm so pleased she is back on the mend and I hope her health continues to improve.

Clearly your main issue is the management of your mum's care by the Scottish Ambulance Service and they are best placed to respond to you regarding this.

Thanks for your kind comments on how your call to NHS 24 was managed which resulted in the original request for an ambulance to attend. I am sorry to read that in future you would bypass NHS 24 and attend directly at A&E. Please be assured that each call to 111 is managed on the clinical symptoms being displayed by the patient at the time of the call, and we can provide advice or access a range of outcomes to assist and refer patients, where appropriate. I would encourage you to consider calling in future if required for any healthcare issue. If you want to discuss this with me in more detail then I would be pleased to speak with you directly. You can get me at patient.experience@nhs24.scot.nhs.uk

Thanks again for taking the time to share your experience.

With best wishes to you both.


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