"Appalling service at Great Western Hospital, Swindon"

About: The Great Western Hospital / Older people's healthcare

(as a relative),

I write this complaint on behalf of my mother-in-law, who is 84 years old and registered disabled. She is not computer literate.

My motherin-law has recently suffered an experience at the hands of the NHS – Great Western Hospital, Swindon – Ophthalmology Department which she has found deeply traumatic and amounts to, in my opinion, appalling failure to offer decent patient care to a vulnerable elderly person.

My mother-in-law is an acclaimed translator and continues to work, thus is dependent on her eyes. She lives on her own. My husband and I live in Hereford, thus are unable to provide day-to-day support and her daughter lives in New Zealand. She continues to drive, but limits driving to her immediate needs i.e. shopping, church or visiting local friends. She does not feel confident to drive longer distances, on unfamiliar routes on her own. She has stopped driving at night some months ago.

The chronology of my mother-in-law’s experience is as follows:

She was referred to an Ophthalmologist at Great Western Hospital, by her Ophthalmologists in Oxford, as she found the journey too strenuous. She suffers glaucoma and needed immediate attention for cataracts on both her eyes.

In October she went for her initial appointment at Great Western Hospital. She took a taxi as her eyes were already badly affected. She was left waiting for over 4 hours, without any explanation or communication. A date was set for the cataract procedure on her left eye for November 2009.

Her second appointment did not raise any difficulty. As my husband and I were not going to be in the country, we had several questions regarding the procedure, in order to make care arrangements on her discharge from surgery. she called her ophthalmologist’s secretary and requested written information regarding the procedure, the amount of time she is expected to need support, when she will be able to drive, etc. She has still not received this information.

On the day of the procedure my mother-in-law employed a family friend to drive her to and from the hospital. She was told to arrive at 12:25 and that snacks and drinks would be provided. Upon her arrival at 12:25, she was told that she would be seen at 18:00, the last patient of the day. The employee had left by then. she has great difficulty walking and would not have been able to walk to the cafeteria or leave the hospital. As a result, she was kept waiting without a drink or food until 18:00. She does not use a mobile phone and was unable to rearrange her collection time or the start of after care arrangements. She was not given a follow-up appointment, information regarding her new medication or written information regarding her recovery.

Whilst waiting, the ward staff discussed the waiting time and her procedure and treatment with her employee, who returned `early’ to collect her. My mother-in-law objected to this and staff apologised, stating that they thought it was her daughter. They did not ask her, despite her being in the waiting room. I believe this is a serious data protection violation.

After approximately 5 weeks, my mother-in-law called her consultant’s office and requested an appointment. She had spoken to her GP, who had not had an appointment through for her and who had not received any information regarding the procedure or after care. The consultant ‘s secretary told my mother-in-law that she should have had a follow up appointment. As the consultant did not have any available appointments, the secretary offered a lunch time appointment for early December 2009.

My mother-in-law when to her appointment. Upon her arrival, the consultant immediately started a consultation. My mother-in-law explained that she had made the appointment to discuss the poor service she had received. The consultant told her that she should have received written information and that she should have received a follow-up appointment, but dismissed her complaint. He told her that she did not need to have the procedure on her right eye until her return from New Zealand in April.

My mother-in-law has written a complaint via her GP, but has not had any feedback. Her GP has referred her to another Ophthalmologist, but she continues to be traumatised by the experience and now lacks trust in the treatment she has received. A deeply frightening experience for a vulnerable patient who relies on Healthcare for her eyesight.

She continues to experience pain in her eyes and continues to struggle with her work, as one eye works and the other not. Her prescription glasses have not been adjusted – the consultant told her that he is not an Optometrist, when she raised this at her appointment. My mother-in-law read today that itching, soreness, blurred vision and general discomfort might be side-effects of her medication, which again, she was not told about.

In conclusion, I would like to highlight the following aspects of my mother-in-law’s care that in my opinion was very poor:

1. Waiting time

2. Lack of communication

3. Lack of follow up

4. Lack of after care

5. Lack of duty of care to a patient

6. Violation of patient confidentiality.

I hope that she will receive a prompt apology and explanation as to the poor treatment she received and reassurance that issues raised within this complaint will be addressed, that other patients will be spared such experiences and that she will not be exposed to such trauma again.

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