"An 83 year old lady's experience"

About: St Albans City Hospital Watford General Hospital / Older people's healthcare

(as a relative),

I would like to share with you my experience in the last week with my mother-in-law in Watford Hospital and her GP surgery at Bushey Health Practice.

She is 83 & recently diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Last week was her pre-op assessment ready for her operation on Thursday. At the assessment it was discovered she had dangerously high blood pressure, and we were advised to get urgently to the GP to recheck and prescribe medication.

We dashed for a 6pm appointment, and the GP was so alarmed by the high blood pressure he made a call and booked us to see a doctor back at St Albans City Hospital, saying she might be kept in overnight. As we had not had any food all day having been waiting a long time, he advised us to get something to eat before we went. This we did and raced to St Albans for about 8pm.

The hospital was completely closed, only a cleaning lady and a security guard were there, and we were told there was no out of hours doctor available. By this time my mother in law was exhausted, stressed and in tears. We made a phone call to Cancer Care and a kind lady advised us that we had probably been told to go to the wrong hospital. We then realised that the GP had misinformed us.

The next morning was to be her pre-op blue dye injection at Hemel Hempstead Hospital, she phoned the Macmillan nurse's number 3 times, and no answer.

She then phoned Cancer Care Line again, who advised her to cancel her appointments, as surgery cannot happen with a person of high blood pressure.

We then called her GP surgery, and a different GP made a home visit to recheck her blood pressure, on finding that it was still very high he sent her to the Acute Assessment centre at Watford General for tests and possible overnight stay.

On arrival we were told there were no beds available, we were instructed to sit in the waiting area. After further tests we were told she would need a brain scan, and sent back to the waiting area.

3 hours later, a student nurse attempted 3 times to insert a dye needle for the brain scan, she admitted she felt unconfident and was unable to complete the task, causing bruising and pain. Next, a more experienced nurse came to do the job, which she achieved instantly.

We then waited again, (bearing in mind this is an 83 year old woman, left sitting on a hard chair). Eventually being called for her brain scan at 11:30pm. At midnight her bed became available. This was a total wait of 10 and a half hours.

During this time my mother in law was not offered any hot food, there was no canteen, just a drinks and sweets machine. The staff did their best to offer sandwiches and tea, but were only able to find 2 small sandwiches, which we shared between 3 of us.

We spoke at length to various staff and were told the situation is absolutely dire since Watford Hospital is completely overwhelmed after 2 hospitals have been closed. The doctors and nurses are working flat out the receptionist told us, and many people had been turned away. My mother in law was given the last bed, completely inappropriately, in a stroke ward, which was mixed. This was the only bed available.

My mother in law came out on Friday evening, and said there was no showers or washroom on her ward and she was given a cardboard basin full of water to wash in. There was one toilet for the ward to share.

Since she has been home, we also found out the GP who home visited her was supposed to prescribe tablets to begin to help shrink her cancer. This is just being put right now.

I am so shocked at the indignity and lack of respect for each human being that the closing of hospitals has resulted in. This 83 year old's generation fought the Second World War to have a health service that accords them respect.

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Response from Watford General Hospital

We are sorry to learn that your experience of our hospital was not as expected.

If you would like us to investigate this matter further on your behalf, please contact our colleagues in the Complaints Department on 01923 217866.

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