"Hospital Visiting"

About: Western Infirmary/Gartnavel General / General Medicine

(as a relative),

Recently I visited my relative who is an inpatient in Level 8 Ward 1 of Glasgow's Western Infirmary. I felt compelled to share my experience of my time spent visiting a much loved, and yes, pretty unwell relative. Let's be open from the outset, it wasn't a pleasant experience at all and it left me feeling uneasy about the quality of compassionate care being delivered and quite anxious about leaving my loved one there. On arriving, the ward setting wasn’t the most inviting; if I’m being honest it was quite bleak and drab in decor, but hey it’s not a hotel. No staff were visible to us on arrival as we entered the ward double doors.

We located our relative and found her husband already at the bedside, trying to tidy and sort her hair, at our loved one's request, I might add. Just as we were about to enter the room, out of nowhere it seemed, a nurse appeared and her first words to us as a family visiting were quite clear and vocal, "It's two to a bedside in here, you can't all visit. " I turned to see who was speaking to us, and smile. I should add, the ward bay was not full and one other patient nodded hello to us and another was sleeping. I am not a rule breaker, I'm all for rules and perhaps even more so in a hospital setting where patients need peace and quiet to aid recovery. However, there was me and my husband and our 8 year old well behaved and now very quiet children, given the reprimand we had received and the tone with which it had been delivered.

Why am I sharing this experience? Well two things, I quickly learned the ward was shutting down in a few months time when I asked why there was no mental stimulation for the patients, no TVs or a radio evident at the bedsides in this ward. Days were long in this environment, that was evident and that was the experience of our loved one too. Secondly and most importantly, what mattered to our relative and what could have made her day a little brighter? Did anyone ask? Did anyone take a moment to stop and ask where we had travelled from to visit? Who we were to the patient? Did anyone in the clinical team recognise that being resident in a ward for a longer than average period of time, with little or no daily mental stimulation and a recent devastating diagnosis, that maybe human to human interaction with loved ones really mattered to our relative? A change of scene, a change of conversation topics, the chance to see younger members of the family...that's what mattered to our loved one, and that's what mattered to us. We came in quietly and respectfully, able to assess that the 4 bedded bay was quiet and no other visitors were in the room at that time. However our first and only interaction with staff was intimidating and unwelcoming. With a serious diagnosis that as a family we are all still trying to adjust to, and witnessing our relative suddenly removed from an active and engaging life, ...it would have been reassuring to feel human compassion evident especially in that tired ward environment. Our relative became upset that we were having to leave before we’d even had a chance to say hello.

All was not lost, we did manage to assist our relative to a room just outside of the ward environment where we sat and quietly chatted with her, therefore not breaking any rules and not upsetting any other patients, which never was our ambition or intention and categorically would not have occurred at the bedside either. I felt anxious that we weren’t near her bed, if she got tired, however we did what she wanted and she wanted to spend time with us. We were able to discuss her illness, how she was feeling, reminisce over some old photos and, let her talk to the children, hear their news and share a hug. The truth is, if the nurse had taken some time, 1 to 2 minutes, to speak kindly towards us, we would have perhaps been able to share our hope that this visit might give our loved one, a much needed lift, that given the ward has no access to televisions or even a radio, our loved one is really struggling with the long days and a frightening diagnosis and that time spent with her family, makes the day and perhaps even the diagnosis, a little bit better. I hope this letter changes the visiting experience for one other family at the very least, visiting a loved one in hospital. Instead it was upsetting, rigid rules applied that did more harm than goos and well, as I'm being honest, it was unwelcoming, I sincerely hope that is the very last experience you would hope for anyone visiting the ward. Please remember that next of kin to patients in hospital often need as much support in adjusting to a diagnosis, and our visit was a support for him too and the demands daily visiting has taken on him.

I haven't ever complained before, I work in healthcare myself, I understand the complexities and pressures but our experience wasn't good. It was cold and unwelcoming and in truth left me feeling a little anxious about what my loved one’s day might be like, as I kissed my relative goodbye.

Your sincerely

Relative of Ward 1 patient.

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Response from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

Dear Compassionate Care

I am really sorry about the manner in which you were greeted, let alone spoken to, when you came to visit a loved one in one of our wards. Please be assured that this is not how NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde would wish any person to feel. We know that the most important care givers in our patients lives are their loved ones - their families and their friends - and we are trying hard to ensure that we can accommodate their needs and support them.

Your very thoughtful posting makes me reflect on a number of aspects of care- the lack of a welcome, the manner in which you were addressed, the environment - both from a patient and a visitor perspective. All of these fell short. Your experience was evidently upsetting to you and to your relative. Please accept my heartfelt apology that this was the case.

I have shared your posting with Joyce Brown, our lead Head of Nursing, and I will come back to you in due course with a further response.

Yours sincerely

Niall McGrogan

Head of Community Engagement

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Update posted by CompassionateCare (a relative)

I sincerely thank you for your kind response and acknowledgement of how we felt following our visiting experience. I do hope that reflection will result in more positive visiting experiences for other families trying to show love and support for a loved one in hospital.

Thank you Niall.

Compassionate Care.