"Turned away by A&E-never felt so insignifcant:..."

About: Southampton General Hospital

On Saturday 17th October 2015 I went to A&E following 2 days of violent vomiting, severe dehydration & agony from convulsions.

I thought I had gastroenteritis, as I'd suffered like symptoms before (& was treated in this very department 5 yrs ago) but this time my symptoms were far worse. I was driven to A&E by my brother, a Doctor who formerly worked in this hospital. He could see that I was at risk of dehydration & would need symptom relief.

NHS gastroenteritis page says you should seek medical help if: "Repeated episodes of vomiting mean that you are unable to keep down any fluid. Or you have symptoms that suggest severe dehydration, such as not passing any urine."

As I met both criteria, I checked into A&E at 9am on Saturday. Department was empty, there was no one ahead of me so there is no reason why more time wasn't spent on finding out what was wrong with me.

I told the triage nurse that I think I may have gastroenteritis however, my symptoms are much worse. To which they replied "If you have gastroenteritis, what are you doing here?" They were practically laughing at me as they were saying it. It was very patronising, hurtful and disheartening. I was too polite to point out that firstly I may not even have gastroenteritis, and secondly, I obviously feel I need urgent medical help, hence the 'Emergency' in A&E.

Nonetheless I stressed that I couldn't keep anything down, even water. To which they said "Just have sips of water for the next 48 hrs, you'll be fine, you shouldn't really be here." Then they indicated that I should leave.

I spent all of 30 seconds in triage before I was sent home. I found this shocking and appalling. Firstly the nurse made no attempt to find out what was wrong with me, they didn't even look at my face properly, didn't notice how dry my lips were. Secondly, that was entirely the wrong advice to give someone in my position. Telling someone to drink water for 48 hours when they've been unsuccessful ingesting water for the past two days is dangerous advice & could have left me fatally dehydrated.

Luckily I didn't take the nurses advice & went to a different hospital. Turns out I was poisoned, they gave anti sickness drugs, painkillers and helped me rehydrate. As soon as I passed water they let me go home. It really was that simple!

Im appalled by this triage nurse. They gave me no dignity or respect, it was like they weren't even listening when I was talking. And to turn someone away from A&E is shocking, where else are they to go? Is 30 secs enough to diagnose? I could have been spiked for all they knew! Even then, it wasn't their call to make, as a triage nurse, they can determine urgency but not turn you away! "Potential virus? Get lost." If I was diagnosed and there was nothing they could do fair enough, but they wouldn't even let me be assessed! Disgusting!

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Response from Southampton General Hospital

It was disappointing and concerning to read your account of your visit to the emergency department and we were so very sorry to read that it was necessary for you to visit another hospital in order to receive a diagnosis.

Your feedback will be shared with the Matron to identify and discuss with the staff member involved.

We are sorry that you left feeling you had not been assessed properly and how you were made to feel.

We would welcome the opportunity to discuss your experience with you and you can contact the Patient Support Services on 023 8120 6325 if you would like to do this.

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