"Why hadn't they paid attention to my notes and wishes?"

About: NHS Fife Victoria Hospital / General Surgery

(as the patient),

I was nervous about an operation, due to traumatic experience of anaesthetic as a child. I was specifically worried about the clamping of a mask on my face. At a previous op, I was told to explain this and good care would be taken to avoid upset. On that occasion this was the case. I then had to have another operation 3 years later and although I wasn't as upset due to the previous good experience, I still spoke about it at pre-op meeting with nurse and the anaesthetist assistant. Both were very supportive. The anaesthetist assistant took lots of notes and assured me that the team would take it in to account and that such feelings were very common, especially due to 1970 dentists. However, on the day of the operation, on meeting the anaesthetist himself for the first time, I found him very odd. His manner was brusque, he barely made eye contact and there was no mention of my concerns. I was so taken aback by his disinterested manner that I forgot to say about the mask issue before he had left the room.

I was therefore nervous, and this was not helped by the nurses who led me down to theatre. Firstly they ignored me, and I was just trailing behind them, then one actually looked at me, and then said, in a very patronising way, 'look at her little face, she looks terrified, have you not had an operation before? ' Before I was able to respond I was being ushered into the pre theatre room and the anaesthetist and his team were waiting on me. Contrast this with the last op, the nurse talked to me all the way to theatre, explained what the room was, and what would happen. She was reassuring and attentive the whole time.

Due to my nerves, at the pre-op assessment meeting the nurse had suggested I use the numbing cream on my hands and this had been done. On being on the table and everything starting to happen, the young anaesthetist, who I assume was a junior to the consultant, was told to give me the cannula. He very carefully wiped off the cream and then put the needle away from where the cream had been, right up at the crease of my wrist, as if he was trying to avoid the cream area. Luckily, either he was very good at it or the cream had actually numbed that area and it didn't hurt but it made me wonder if he knew why the cream was there. He was then told to come round behind me and the senior anaesthetist said that this younger man was going to give me oxygen and then he would put the drugs in via the cannula. At the previous op, the mask was held very lightly over me, and I was asked whether I wanted to hold it. On this occasional I found the mask clamped as firmly as it could have been, with both of the mans hands over my face and I immediately felt panicky and and that I wanted to scream and get off the table. Luckily I was able to shake my head and tap his hand with my free one, and he lifted the mask. I then said that I couldn't have that, and that it should be in my notes why. The senior anaesthetist then said that I had to have oxygen and seemed unaware of my issues. I repeated my concerns and that I had raised this before, and he said that the mask could be held lightly. I felt very distressed as I went under, in fact I was thinking angry thoughts about why they hadn't paid attention to the notes, and when I came to afterwards, I felt very upset and it was the first thing on my mind.

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Response from Louise Ewing, Patient Relations Manager, NHS Fife

picture of Louise Ewing

Dear Fife2014

Thank you for taking the time to tell us about your recent experience with an anaesthetic. I was sorry to hear that despite you making staff aware, you had such a negative experience, as this is not what we want or expect for patients.

Whilst a number of staff members will be able to read this, we believe it is important to provide feedback more directly in a case like this, as it provides the staff member/s with an opportunity to reflect on practice and consider any learning for the future. On that basis I would be very keen to speak to you directly and have provded my contact details below if you would consider doing so.

Thank you for taking the time to share your story which can not have been easy for you.


Louise Ewing

Patient Relations Manager

NHS Fife

01592 648153

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