"My husband died in hospital"

About: Royal Hallamshire Hospital / General surgery

(as a relative),

In the first week of January 2008 my partner felt unwell; generally nauseous. On Monday 7th he saw his doctor who said he had an enlarged liver but assured him he thought it not unduly worrying. He would make an appointment for Ben to see a consultant. By Monday 14th his condition was much worse and after a home visit, the doctor arranged for admission to the Hallamshire. I drove us there arriving at about 2pm. We sat in emergency admissions for over 8 hours. Eventually he was examined and had two blood tests. After 8 hours after we arrived he was told he was well enough to go home! I was very worried by this decision and we were told he could have a bed if he insisted, but by then my partner Ben could not get out of there fast enough. We went home with appointments for a scan next day and to see the consultant on the Thursday. They fitted us in apparently because we weren’t taking a bed and because it was obvious that actually Ben was not well. Ben died on the 16th February 2008 in hospital.

The whole experience had been just awful. The Emergency Admissions area in which we waited was packed, with some people standing. Everyone who was walking or in a wheelchair or stretcher, staying, coming or leaving, passed through the same tight space between the reception desk and all the “emergency” ill. We were surrounded by patients receiving intravenous drugs, an incontinent patient, a drug addict and a drunk etc. Noise, noise, noise. There was no apparent access to privacy, food or drink. It was appalling and chaotic. As a first visit to hospital it was shocking. Apparently we were waiting for the relevant specialist to assess the actual condition. No one in Admissions was a priority until assessed, yet no one knew how seriously ill patients were until assessed which could be hours after arrival, as in our case. The staff in the area apologised often and asked us to complain!

Yet another horrendous experience was on the 17th January 2008, our first meeting with the consultant. The room we were put in was immediately depressing. We were in a kind of cupboard half way down a corridor; n window, one chair and a bed so tightly fitted that we could not sit together and share support and comfort. (It was certainly not an office or consulting room where we saw others being taken). The consultant and his nurse had to stand in the doorway. He began very abruptly with, “Well, what do you know?” We were stunned and didn’t know what to say. We knew no more than what our doctor had said and than on Monday Ben had been well enough to go home! We had come hoping the consultant would explain what the scan was showing and discuss with us what next.

Instead his first words and manner suggested he resented having to fit us in and wanted to get through the appointment as quickly as possible. Just as the room also implied. Next he dismissed our doctors comment and then without using the term cancer using equivalent medical terms he told us his opinion/ diagnosis. I realised that he was telling us that Ben had “extensive secondary’s” in his liver. I grasped this because 28 years earlier I had heard something similar about my father. He then told us, “If we are to have any chance of extending your life we need further tests and to find the cause as soon as possible.” However, Ben had been so affronted by his approach in those first few minutes into the appointment (his opening question, his dismissive attitude, the general rush), that I don’t think Ben could take in the real information. We went from hope to a death sentence in minutes but it was delivered without empathy, kindness, or time and in the most unsympathetic surroundings. Ben left angry about how rude he had found the consultant and this, coupled with the experience in Admissions, added to his opinion of hoe inefficient and unprofessional the whole place seemed.

Arrangements were made for further tests and examinations and as a last resort if necessary, a liver biopsy. We then proceeded to make out own way to hospital every other work day from the 17th to 31st for the tests. A huge ad courageous effort by Ben who so wanted to live. The primary source of his cancer was never found and when they finally did take Ben in for the biopsy on 31st January, they couldn’t perform it until the 7th February because his liver wouldn’t clot. It was all too late! Ben died in hospital on 16th February 2008. As a result of these two episodes I was faced with helping Ben through a terrible time made worse by his anger and unhappiness at what had happened on 14th and 17th Jan.

I have the comfort that Ben was at home for as long as possible. But also I have the knowledge that if taken in on the 14th as our doctor had assumed would happen, procedures may have been completed more quickly and treatment begun. Once in hospital and also in all departments where he had tests, the staff were pleasant, helpful and professional. I am happy to discuss the above and also for it to be published. I am aware that improvements have since been made regarding the circulation of patients through the Emergency Admissions Department.

I also was treated at the hospital in April 2009 when my doctor referred me to the EAU. Friends drove me to the hospital as I had a fever and a very red and swollen face and glands. The condition began the day before and had been getting worse and covering a larger area each hour that passed. We arrived there at approx 4pm and I was checked in and had an MRSA swab. I was not seen by a doctor until 11pm. As my doctor had been concerned that the infection reached my eyes or brain I was very concerned that I had to wait so long! During the seven hour wait my condition got worse. My friends could see this and complained, as I did. Other patients also commented on my lack of attention. We were told the appropriate doctor was busy but would come when he had time. Twice I was told that here were shift changes, hence the delay. I could see that he new system had reduced the chaos considerably since last year. Nonetheless, waiting times did not seem much improved for most patients. Eventually I arrived in a single room on E2 an infectious diseases ward. Next day I discovered most of the other rooms were empty. Also E1 and E3 has staff that specialise in the same area as the doctor who eventually assessed me the night before, so why did I need to wait so long? The care I received on E2 and since on E3 was very good and all the staff were very professional and approachable and gave time to explain procedures.

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