"Poor attention of ward staff"
About: North Devon District Hospital / General medicine North Devon District Hospital General medicine EX31 4JB
Posted by JS1 (as ),
My daughter went into Barnstaple Hospital on 16th June 2015 to have a 'large uterine fibroid' removed. She is 18.
The operation went well and we were very happy with the care provided by the consultant so although we were warned of the possible 'worst case scenarios', it appeared that the outcome was looking very positive. She was transferred up to Staples Ward. The following day she asked at least 4 times, to different members of the ward staff, for the drain flask to be changed as it had filled to the top overnight. Each time she was told either that they didn't know where they were kept (! ) or that someone would be along to do it. This didn't happen until around 1. 00-1. 30pm so the fluid that should have been draining had nowhere to go for at least 7 hours. When it was finally changed, the blood/fluid was coming out at such a rate that she filled a number of flasks in a very short time (from memory around 1. 2l). The doctors attending to her and other staff seemed at a loss to know what to do and we were told that unless the flow slowed very soon, she would be taken back to theatre to have a hysterectomy. It was only afterwards that my daughter was able to tell me about the flask not being changed. I arrived for visiting time at 2. 30pm to be met by a scene of flurried activity, many staff coming and going from her curtained area and to be told that it was likely that my daughter would never be able to have her own children. I doubt the doctors were told about the unchanged flask which is why they thought she was haemorrhaging.
Fortunately for her, the flow did start to slow down and she could be transferred to Exeter where they had the facility to deal with this kind of emergency.
My thoughts from this whole experience are: why was an 18-year-old girl referred to a hospital where, should there be complication of this kind there would have been no option but to render her infertile? (We would have been more than happy to go to Exeter - an extra 10 mins by car had we known there was a better facility and she would be cared for on a dedicated gynae ward).
Secondly, how could a patient be transferred to a ward without the necessary equipment being on hand (ie drain flasks)?
Thirdly, why was it left to a young girl to try to get the flask changed and why was that not treated as a matter of urgency.
Lastly, do the staff on the ward who failed to get the flask changed, know how close the lapse in care came to inflicting a devastatingly life-changing outcome on a young girl (not to mention the extra cost to the NHS of firstly 'wasting' the 2-3 hours surgery time from the main operation and then another operation to remove her womb completely). The staff appeared unfamiliar with the drain and didn't seem to know how to connect it up (even trying at one point to connect it to a wrongly-sized flask).
In short, I'm grateful to the consultant for his work and care but my previous confidence in ward staff at Barnstaple has been severely dented. It was one of the worst days of my life (and certainly the worst day of my daughter's life so far) and having to make a call to my husband to tell him his 18-year-old daughter was going to have to have a hysterectomy was awful. My daughter was very brave, although understandably distressed by all the goings-on, so it added insult to injury to be told by one of the staff that she shouldn't be upsetting herself - how exactly was she supposed to react to news that she would never have her own family?