"I felt whatever I had to say would be disbelieved"

About: NHS Lothian Western General Hospital / General Surgery

(as the patient),

In January 2013, I had a bleed from my bowel – blood and mucus shot out of me when I was not near a toilet. During an appointment with a rheumatologist about another matter, amongst other things he asked me if I had any problems with my gut. I mentioned the blood and mucus. He asked me if I had reported it to my GP, and when I said that I had not, he said that he would include it in his report and that I must see my GP about it.

I rang the bowel screening programme to see if my next test could be brought forward. I was told that it could not.

When I saw a GP she asked me to describe the bleed in detail, she was in no doubt that she wanted to refer me for a hospital appointment. She mentioned the possibility of a colonoscopy.

I later received an appointment from the Western General Hospital. When I attended the appointment the doctor asked me how many bleeds I had had in the months since that bleed. When I said that I had had no more bleeds, he began to laugh and asked if I only had one bleed. He proceeded to tell me that a patient could have a bleed every day for a month and there be nothing wrong with them. I remember feeling very disturbed by his attitude. Surely it could not be normal for a patient to bleed from the bowel day after day? Surely what he meant was that his department could not detect the cause of such disturbance? But that was not what he had said…

He fired a number of statistics at me very quickly. I think that these were intended to demonstrate to me that the likelihood of there being anything wrong with me was nil.

I had a sense that he was perhaps seeing me as someone who had put pressure on my GP to request a colonoscopy. Nothing could have been further from my mind. I had had a colonoscopy 15 years earlier, and it was not an experience that I particularly wished to repeat. I had consulted my GP because the rheumatologist had told me to do so, and my GP had decided to make the referral to the hospital.

At some stage I told him that I had phoned the bowel screening programme to see if my next test could be brought forward. His response was confused and did not make sense. I was left feeling that he did not understand this system.

He then said, in what sounded like a triumphant tone, that he expected it was something I'd eaten. He had asked me nothing about what I eat. He had not asked me about any other symptoms. The truth of the matter is that I can suffer months at a time of pain of varying severity in a particular area of my gut. Sometimes it is so severe that I cannot eat at all. My diet has never been anything other than healthy and bland, and I drink only water.

I felt that whatever I tried to say to him would be disbelieved and discounted. I waited for him to finish, and left.

I would like to have advice about how to manage this kind of situation.

The bowel screening programme sent me a test pack several months earlier that it would normally have done. I was grateful for that.

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Response from Customer Relations and Feedback Team, NHS Lothian

Dear Mirabelle

I am sorry to read about your poor experience and you should certainly not leave any consultation feeling that you had not been believed or anything discussed did not make sense.

If you would like to contact the Customer Relations and Feedback Team on 0131 536 3370, email craft@nhslothian.scot.nhs.uk or write to Waverley Gate, 2-4 Waterloo Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3EG and provide us with information we can contact the relevant service area and request some feedback for you.

Thank you for taking the time to post your experience as feedback is important to us.