"Some issues at William Harvey Hospital"

About: William Harvey Hospital

(as the patient),

I was a patient in Kings Ward B and have now sufficiently recovered to try to get back to normal. The following complaints are therefore not just a knee-jerk reaction but are considered over time and are intended as constructive criticism from a patient’s point of view. They are however still meant to be taken seriously.

Generally, I cannot praise the nursing enough for their care, but whoever I spoke to on the ward (patients, staff, or visitors) agreed that it is clear there are nowhere near enough of them to perform their duties properly. There were several occasions when either a nurse or HCA was performing a task for me and was then called away mid-task to deal with something else, and usually then did not manage to return to complete what they were doing initially.

Following that general comment, I have two specific concerns:

Behaviour of night shift staff: On one night shift (I can not remember which one in particular) there was constant personal conversation by the staff all night. I fully understand they must talk to each other to do their jobs, but subjects such as photographs of their children, or the best town in which to take a driving test can surely wait until meal breaks. It strikes me that if there is such a high level of personal chat, then those involved cannot be performing their duties in a fit and proper manner. That night in particular, I was still awake at 4:30 am, desperately trying to ignore the noise, when I finally asked for something to help me get to sleep. This request was refused because of the time, but I was simply offered more pain relief. I am sure you can imagine what the main topic of conversation was the following day, not just between patients, but also comments made to the nursing staff day shift.

Quality of patients’ food: Hospital food has been the subject of much media attention over the past few years and everybody concerned agrees that the best medicine for patients’ recovery is wholesome and appetising food. I describe below some of the dishes I was served. I did not take any photographs, but my dietician agreed with my comments when I mentioned the subject to her.

‘Roast chicken with crispy roast potatoes, beans, carrots and gravy’ The chicken was quite tasty, beans and carrots had come from a tin and boiled to within an inch of death, the potatoes may or may not have seen the oven, but they were soft and coated with a brown gel-like substance which may have been gravy. It was not just the appalling quality of the food, but it still retained the shape of the dish it had been made in before being tipped onto my plate.

‘Fish and chips’ The whole meal was dry and unappetising with the ‘fish’ portion containing more breadcrumbs than fish, and the chips, though part cooked, were hard and as white as the raw potatoes from which they were made.

‘Golden crispy short-crust beef and onion pie served with mashed potatoes, peas and carrots’ As before, the carrots were tinned and completely over-cooked and tasteless. However, the pie looked like an uncooked suet pudding, the ‘pastry’ was grey and solid and coated in the same mystery gel as before, and I could find no evidence of any onion whatsoever. The mashed potatoes could have been anything white/grey - I did not touch it.

All in all, the standard of the food you serve to your patients I found to be atrocious and absolutely unappetising. If you want patients to recover quickly, and thereby increase turnover of your beds, I believe the very least you should do is to watch some re-runs of James Martins’ series’ previously shown on the BBC, and then replace your catering contractor with a team of in-house, conscientious staff working in an on-site kitchen. It works well in other hospitals, why not William Harvey?

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Response from Julie Pearce, Chief Nurse + Director of Quality + Operations, East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust

Thank you for your feedback which is very much appreciated, we take feedback very seriously and use it to help us to improve. I do understand your concerns about availability of nursing staff when the ward is particularly busy. We are trying our best to recruit additional staff and do have some wards with vacancies and are having to recruit overseas.

Thank you for your feedback about food quality, we do received mixed feedback with some patients rating the food highly and those such as yourself who do not find it appetising. We obviously have a problem with consistency and this will be fedback to the current provider.

I do hope you are recovering well.

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