"My mother's experience of Basildon and Thurrock Hospital"

About: Basildon University Hospital / General medicine

(as a relative),

The media has been full of stories about a damming report issued by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) into Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

I have a personal interest here as my 83 year old mother was recently an in patient in this hospital, and it seems there has been few if any improvements in patient care between the time when the CQC inspectors visited the hospital last October and when my mother arrived in October of this year.

She had been sent by her GP to the Assessment Ward at Basildon and Thurrock Hospital, as the GP felt my mother was in need of a course of intravenous antibiotics due to a badly infected left leg. At first I thought fine, we will not have to spend up to four hours plus waiting to be seen in the casualty department; presuming, due to her age and her GP’s assessment she would be warded almost immediately.

We arrived at Basildon and Thurrock hospital's Assessment Ward at approximately 6:30pm, we signed in with the ward clerk who then told us told to sit down in a small corner of the ward. When I noticed the waiting area was almost entirely full of OAP’s waiting to be assessed the warning bells began to ring, as I could not help wondering whether sending the aged here was a ruse to keep causality waiting time down.

She waited for over four hours before she was seen by a nurse, which in the scheme of things was ‘quick,’ as a 93 year old man who had brought in his wife who was suffering from leg ulcers and Alzheimer's disease, told me they had been waiting to be seen for nine hours and others waiting told me a similar tale.

It was well past midnight before Mum was finally seen by a doctor, who told her she would have to come into the hospital for an intravenous course of antibiotics. Something she had already been told by her GP over seven hours previously, although her GP also said once the treatment was authorized by a Trust consultant, she could see no reason why the course of antibiotics could not then be overseen at home by the Trusts home nursing team.

If you consider my mother is 83 years and suffering from a badly infected leg, the fact the waiting area was totally inadequate due to the numbers of patient's using it, hardly helped matters, nor did the inadequate number of chairs to sit on, and the lack of information we received as to why there was such a long wait.

Nevertheless, we might have put the aforementioned down to experience and hoped in the future other elderly patients might not be treated in such a callous manner. However when she arrived on the ward, her situation went from bad to worse. She was put in a corner of the Cardiac Day Unit situated next to the kitchens in the bowels of the hospital. There were none of the most basic amenities I would expect in a hospital ward, such as adequate toilet facilities. Throughout my mothers stay, there were upwards of ten bedridden patients yet there were only one toilet available for them to use, no showers or even proper washing facilities, just a small hand basin. Let alone lockers, over bed lights, TV, telephone, day room, etc, one expects in a modern hospital. Now, if this was just a case of an overnight stop-over, necessary due to an unforeseen emergency, we as a family at a push would have lived with my Mums situation.

But this was not the case, for no matter how much we complained, she remained housed in my opinion, this totally inadequate and unsanitary facility for five days. Throughout this period all but one of the ladies along side her were elderly, two were clearly suffering from a serious dementia type illness and also suffered from incontinence, which resulted in the other women getting very little sleep and due to the lack of showers, left one of the women in a pitiful condition. The situation was hardly helped as there was only one Zimmer frame available. I would say it is not an exaggeration to say some of the patients appeared to be at the end of their tether.

On the morning of her fourth day my mother was told by her consultant she could finally go home that day and be treated at home by the district nurse with antibiotics, why this had not been arranged earlier the doctor could not, or would not say. My mother telephoned me on her mobile to ask me to come and collect her, she then got dressed and waited for the appropriate paper work to be dealt with.

When I arrived at the hospital later that afternoon, she was sitting on the side of her bed dejected and told me she has now been told she cannot go home. I asked the doctor, who luckily just happened to be there when I arrived, when I could take my mother home. The doctor and a nurse were having a conversation and then said to me she couldn’t go home as one had told her she can.

My mother was then asked by the doctor who had told her, so she went over clearly and precisely what she had been told by the senior doctor who had earlier that day told her she could go home. Nevertheless my mum remembered it and informed both the doctor on duty and the aforementioned nurse.

She was then told by both the nurse and doctor this was simply untrue, she must be mistaken. In my opinion this was shameful and shocking behaviour on the part of two medical professionals. After I challenged the doctor about this, I was promised that someone would come back to me on it. But this was not the case as one of the sisters was called to tell me that senior staff had said my mother could not go home. We accepted this, although I had doubts about it. Nevertheless, we had no alternative as when I asked the sister what would happen if I took my mother home, she replied that it would be the end of her treatment. As my mother clearly could not go home unless we were confident the home nursing was in place, she reluctantly agreed to stay, however you can imagine her disappointment.

The following morning after a family member had gone through back channels at Basildon and Thurrock hospital, my mother received a visit from her consultant who apologised profusely for the mix up of the previous afternoon; and confirmed she had been right in what she claimed about going home, and the procedures necessary for her to go home were being put in place as they speak.

My mother was very grateful for this apology. Whilst we waited for her discharge letter, and medications, all the shortcomings we had experienced again came to the surface. First there were no envelopes in which to place the discharge letter to her GP. Next no syringes and needles on the ward for the use of the home nurses who are to visit my mother at home daily to set up her antibiotic drip, etc.

Finally no wheel chair was available to help my mother make her way to the car park. After a nurse went off to search of one and came back empty handed, I toured the hospital in search of a wheelchair. Finally I managed to get a wheelchair unseen from a ward and I have no doubt by doing so depriving some other poor soul of their mobility.

Thankfully my mother is now back in her own home and whilst it has not been all plain sailing, her leg is slowly improving and she is grateful to the nurses who come in to treat her daily.

I have made a complaint to the hospital Trust but we are still waiting to hear its outcome. The problems which evolved during my mothers stay seem to me to be mainly organizational matters.

Based on my experience I think that Basildon and Thurrock Hospital Trust uses far too many temporary agency nurses as during the five days of my mothers stay, there was absolutely no continuity of nursing staff. Ward Sisters were co-opted daily from other wards.

Finally I feel it is important I make a brief observation of something else my mother and I witnessed on more than one occasion during the five days of my mother stay at Basildon and Thurrock hospital. We both felt there was a nasty undertow of racism amongst some of the staff at the hospital; I drew this admittedly surface conclusion from exchanges I personally witnessed and in one case a fully fledged argument. I reported this in an exchange of emails when making my complaint to the Trust on my mothers behalf, but I refused to take it further for as what I had witnessed could only be a surface impression. I also I felt if I were to add this to my mothers complaint it would be brought to the fore and her main complaints would possibly become secondary.

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