"Lack of Communication makes care harder for everyone at Newcastle"

About: North Tyneside General Hospital / Trauma and orthopaedics

(as the patient),

North Tyneside Hospital is currently looking after my 92 year-old mother after she suffered a stroke which then resulted in a broken leg. She was kept waiting for three days before the required surgery which was apparently delayed until a CAT scan had been undertaken and ten days before receiving treatment for her stroke (so far it is increased levels of aspirin). To add to the misery, her ward was contaminated with a rogue diarrhoea virus that has caused great distress. Nobody can tell us whether the virus has been identified or not.

It seems that there are few protocols around communication with patients and relatives and that old people are a very low priority. We have found that obtaining information from doctors about her prognosis requires the application of a great deal of pressure. My mother's thinking capacity has been greatly diminished by the stroke and my sister (who holds her power of attorney) and I are encountering an increasing level of resistance when asking to meet with her doctors.

At no stage in my mother's illness has a doctor volunteered any information. It has only been through persistent questioning and pressure that we have gained access to the scant amount of information we currently have.

During each visit, we have been assured by the nursing staff that she is making great progress however this would appear to relate only to her leg. My sister has mentioned to a considerable number of the nurses, her concerns about my mother's mental state. No information is ever available about treatment for this or indeed prognosis for likely levels of recovery. I accept that it is relatively early days but it adds considerably to the levels of anxiety we feel when no senior member of the medical staff is available for comment. Yesterday, my sister requested an appointment with one fo the doctors, but this apparently cannot be easily achieved.

In a situation such as this, where changes to the mental state and ability of the patient have been so dramatically and swiftly altered, it would seem sensible to involve the relatives more since they are able to describe the degree and timing of these changes which could, presumably lead to more effective treatment.

The level of nursing care does seem to have been high throughout; these comments and concerns relate much more to the difficulties in accessing information and indeed contributing to the best possible treatment of my mother.

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Response from

Not being kept informed does make everything so much harder, doesn't it? And when there are lots of major things going on like your mother's stroke, her confusion and her broken leg, it must be harder still.

If you have not tried them already it may help to contact the PALS service (Patient Advice and Liaison Service)at North Tynesise Hospital. Every hospital has their own PALS service and though they can vary a bit from hospital to hospital - some deal mainly with complaints, others are able to take a broader outlook - they are there to help patients navigate their way around an NHS that can be complex and confusing. So its worth giving them a try.

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