"Torbay A&E left me feeling unsupported"

About: Torbay Hospital / Accident and emergency

(as a parent/guardian),

I had a poorly child with temperature of 40 degrees, and other symptoms that led me to calling the NHS 111 service for help during the night.

The call operator was very helpful, clear in their instructions, and made me feel safe when they took me through the symptom checking protocol. At the end of this conversation I was advised to attend the A&E at Torbay Hospital within the hour. The advice was – it is better to be safe and have your baby checked.

Upon arrival I was warmly welcomed by a nurse, shown to a side room and made to feel at ease. Sadly this was to change quite quickly. The baby had some basic tests done, we were reassured someone would be in to see us.

The nurse returned with medication and she started the conversation with a reprimand:

'Just to let you know this doesn't really warrant an A&E attendance, but you are here now so that's fine'. She also explained ‘Now you are here you can use this room, it’s yours but the baby seems fine and I wouldn't worry’.

As she left I looked at my husband slightly confused, and we were a little unsure as to why we were getting a telling off. It felt disapproving and the feeling of support fell away. She returned a few times with various bits and bobs, the baby was getting more unsettled and upset.

I believe the nurse felt we shouldn't be there and had made her position clear, we asked if we could be sent home to look after baby in her own environment. The nurse reacted in an abrupt way, she became more firm with her words and stepped closer to me as she spoke to me. She advised that she was ‘just’ a nurse and although baby seemed fine it was ok for us to wait for a doctor or we could discharge ourselves and sign a disclaimer.

It wasn't until this time that the nurse inquired about how we came to be in A&E in the first place. Because we were advised to by a sister NHS service, all under the best interests of our baby. When we explained, the nurse undermined the care advice given by the 111 service and said we should have attended the MIU in Newton Abbot.

We decided to discharge ourselves, our baby was tired, restless, upset and needed to go to bed, it was our decision to go home. It is strange thing to tell parents they don’t need to be in A&E and then make it appear as though we were going against medical advice.

Although a sad experience, I still trust and would continue to use the 111 service, follow medical advice given to me for the safety of my family. I would welcome any information you can provide to reassure me the A&E service is able to do the same. As an NHS employee I am aware of how difficult it is to encourage appropriate use of services but I am still not clear why I shouldn’t have attended A&E?

How can the A&E and 111 NHS services work better together?

- Service users should not be affected by interagency process issues. I don’t think it professional to cast doubt about medical advice given by any service that is a central contact point for out of hours care.

Do nurses in A&E feel empowered?

- The nurse who tended to us had made an assessment, expressed her opinions and advised that our baby seemed fine but then when questioned she said ‘I’m just a nurse’. In my opinion, she undermined her own value in the service, she is a medical professional and her advice is worthy, it just wasn’t’ executed very well.

I believe should be made to feel safe and supported to care for my family and seek help when I need to.

Do you have a similar story to tell? Tell your story & make a difference ››


Response from Sam Holden, Patient Experience Lead, Patient Quality and Safety, South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group

picture of Sam Holden

Dear Gemep9

Thank you for taking the time to give your feedback.

I was really pleased that you found the NHS 111 service locally to be useful and that you had a good experience of this service. It is a shame therefore that you were let down by the experience you received at Torbay Hospital and I am very sorry that this was the case. I was disappointed that you were made to feel this way and you absolutely did the right thing, so I would like to reassure you about that.

Following advice given by 111 is the correct thing to do and arriving at Accident and Emergency for a check is sound advice when a baby has a high temperature.

As you say, it can be difficult to encourage and educate people as to the appropriate use of services and I believe that staff have a role to play in doing this well. From what you have said, it would certainly seem to me that A&E was the correct place albeit that your child turned out not to be too poorly. A&E services locally and nationally are under a huge amount of pressure and whilst this doesn’t excuse poor attitude, this may account for some of the experience that you had.

You are absolutely right that A&E services and NHS 111 should be able to work together without patients being affected, even if wrong advice is given, it would be reasonable to expect the service to treat a patient referred to them and deal internally with the issue of incorrect advice being given. You may be aware that we have recently re-tendered for a new Integrated Urgent Care Service incorporating NHS 111 within it and we are hopeful that this will create more joined up working with different parts of the system.

As commissioners (buyers) of both of these services, I would be interested in looking more closely into this situation, to understand and establish learning for both organisations. In order to do so I would be grateful if you could contact me to provide me with more details.

You can contact me by email to patientfeedback.sdtccg@nhs.net or by telephone on 01803 652 578 Monday to Friday - 9am to 5pm.

Once again, thanks for your feedback and I hope that you child is feeling better.

Best wishes


  • Gemep9 thinks this response is helpful
    {{helpful-1}} of {{totalOthers()}} other people think so too

Response from Torbay Hospital

Dear A&E Enquirer

Thank you for taking the time to comment.

It is always good to receive feedback; we try to ensure we share examples of good practice and also that we learn from any negative experiences.

Kind regards

Patient Services

Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust

  • {{helpful}} of {{total()}} people think this response is helpful