"Please let this story, and others like it, make that difference happen"

About: East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust / Emergency ambulance Lincoln County Hospital / Accident and emergency

(as the patient),

It is with sadness that I write this criticism of Lincoln County Hospital's A and E department.

I was taken here by ambulance twice in one week recently, both times with heart trouble, once as a result of a tachycardia attack which happened at my GP's surgery and the other, with severe chest pain, on the instructions of the 111 service adviser who called the ambulance. Both times I was somewhat frightened, which is to be expected.

I can find no fault with the competent and caring service provided by the paramedics, they were brilliant. However, on reaching Lincoln's A and E department, it was a different story.

The first time the department was busy, so much so that radio broadcasts were, not for the first time, asking people to stay away. Accompanied by my paramedics, I was 5th in a queue of 6 stretchers. I was there for about an hour.

What struck me most was how ignored we all were by the A and E staff. I was not expecting, and did not need, a direct approach but what was strange was that not one member of staff, who passed frequently, ever looked at any of us, nor smiled. Perhaps they were afraid one of us would ask something?

To cut this story short, I was eventually admitted to a cubicle, blood sample taken by an unsmiling nurse who again did not look at me, and then visited by a doctor in scrubs who glanced at my ECG recording and then said, 'Why are you here? You should not have come! '. In my vulnerable situation, this came as quite a shock, especially as I was not there because I had called an ambulance, rather my GP had.

The only person who smiled at me, and spoke as though I was a human being was the nursing sister who eventually told me I could leave. I was very grateful for that smile!

The second visit was more upsetting. Frightened by chest pain and breathlessness that lasted some time, I was taken to A and E by ambulance 5 days after the first incident. This time, the department was quiet, lots of members of staff standing in groups around the nursing station, quite a few reading items on computers. I was taken to a cubicle, instructed to move onto the bed, then left alone. I was frightened and felt very vulnerable. I was briefly visited by a nurse who didn't speak but hooked me up to an ECG machine. After that, I waited, wishing I had an alarm button just in case my chest pain got worse.

Again, to cut a long story short, I was in that cubicle for just under four hours. In that time I was basically ignored. No one asked if I was ok, no one offered a drink of water or asked if I needed the loo. More importantly, perhaps, no one came to investigate why my ECG monitor kept flashing red and beeping. I was eventually told it was faulty, as were two others I was put on later? ? How safe is that? An episode of tachycardia was missed because no one came to witness it. By now, I had asked for an alarm button, surely this should be given to every patient in A and E? Although using it during the tachycardia episode provoked a visit to my cubicle, the nurse was not interested in my distress and just looked in, then left.

After about three hours my husband went to ask a nurse for a drink of water for me, the nurses working on computers or talking would not look at him though he waited a while. He came back to me very disillusioned.

We were both dismayed by the lack of care and sympathy, the stony faces, the minimum amount of time staff spent with patients and what seemed like personal chat between them taking precedence over patient care. Nurses walked past the open door of my cubicle but didn't look in. A gentlemen in a cubicle next to mine called repeatedly for a nurse, but no one went to him, as far as I could see. I, for one, would have really appreciated some humanity, some sign of understanding and caring, but there was none.

Only two people gave us a little hope, the Nurse Practitioner who eventually moved us to Ambulatory Care and offered us a sandwich and a cup of tea and Maria, the nurse from the Cardiac ward who came to speak to us just before we left who smiled (a ray of sunshine in a dark place! ) and gave us some information about what was happening (why I was getting chest pains).

The doctor was professional and competent but seemed inexperienced. Attempting to take blood, the doctor apologised for collapsing the vein and tried again on the other arm. The doctor was willing to respond to questions about what was happening, which was appreciated, even though the doctor did not always know the answer. The doctor could not tell me why I was in pain as it was outside the doctors experience and the doctor said that I would need a cardiologist. A cardiologist was not offered, I was told to go back to my GP and ask for a referral.

Later, the doctor told us that, for the A and E staff to meet their targets, all patients had to be discharged from the department within four hours. We should not have been surprised when, after almost four hours, we were asked to move to a room labelled Ambulatory Care, thus making sure, no doubt, that the target was met in our case, even though we did not feel It had been thoroughly assessed or learned why all this was happening.

A and E, and Ambulatory care, became merely waiting rooms. We stayed in Ambulatory Care for a further 2 and a half hours and finally left the hospital after 7 hours with no further assessment.

These two experiences have left us with a dread of having to use Lincoln County's A and E again. I am sure all medical staff there are highly trained, competent and, in other environments, pleasant and caring people but where is the evidence of medical competence and properly functioning equipment that would make us feel as though we are in good hands and, thus, safe?

Another big question is - where is the humanity in A and E? Where is the patient care that goes beyond doing the minimum? Why don't they check on patients waiting in cubicles? Why don't they make sure they have an alarm, and are comfortable? Don't they understand how afraid and vulnerable their patients feel? Do patients matter to them? Why are patients not the priority?

I would suggest a need for intensive training to educate staff as to the primary purpose of their role. It is not to meet targets, to enter information on computers or to chat about personal lives to colleagues (that is unforgivable in work time as it detracts from their essential professional role), it is to care for patients with empathy and sympathy as well as medical competence and responsibility. This positive attitude, with all its ramifications, is not there at the moment. It needs to be.

'Tell your story and make a difference' is what patients are asked to do. Please let this story, and others like it, make that difference happen. There are stories on your website many months old delivering the same message to you and things do not seem to have improved. Your patients deserve better. Is anyone with the power and foresight to change things listening?

Do you have a similar story to tell? Tell your story & make a difference ››


Response from Rebekah Marong, Communications & Engagement Support Officer, Communications and Engagement, East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust

Hello Anna5

I hope you are feeling better after, what sounds like, a very difficult time for you.

Thank you for taking the time to mention the care you received from the ambulance crews on your recent trips to hospital. Our crews work very hard to ensure that each patient receives the very best care and treatment and it’s great to hear that, on this occasion, the paramedics did just that.

Kind regards

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Response from United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust

Dear Anna5

Having read your letter, I would like to offer an unreserved apology for the terrible experience you have had of our Emergency Department. You have highlighted several issues, all of which will be investigated, but the issue that has disturbed me the most is the seemingly cold and uncaring nature of the staff you encountered. All patients expect to be looked after with compassion and courtesy, even when things are busy so I am extremely disappointed that this was not your experience. Even though your letter is quite clear, I think that it would benefit us if you were able to visit the hospital and relay your experiences in person to myself along with the Matron and Sister for the Department. This will hopefully also allow us to demonstrate to you our determination to put this right. If you make contact with our PALS team directly on 01522 707071 then they will be happy to arrange a meeting at your convenience.

David Cleave

Acting Head of Nursing, Medicine

Lincoln County Hospital

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