"Good care for hysterectomy, but administrative failures caused problems"

About: St Thomas' Hospital (London)

(as the patient),

After a series of tests between 17th July and 5th October 2007 at Lewisham Hospital, I was referred to Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital for an abdominal hysterectomy.

On 8th October I had an appointment with Miss Raju’s registrar at the McNair Centre and she explained the extent of the operation. She was unable to give me a date during the appointment but on the way home I received a mobile phone call telling me that it would be 23rd October.

On 10th October I had a call to say the operation was to be brought forward to Monday 15th October. On the Friday prior to that I received a courtesy call to confirm the operation date and to say that I was to phone between 9-9.30am on the 15th to find out exactly what time to arrive.

As this was during the postal strike, I had no written confirmation of any of the details and also the short notice prohibited this.

On 15th October, I phoned the McNair Centre from 9am and left 2 or 3 messages. Finally I spoke to someone who said they would phone back at 2pm latest, which she did, and was told that there were no beds available, and that I should instead arrive at 7am on Tuesday 16th October. I was not told at which hospital I should arrive though.

As my previous appointment had been at Guy’s Hospital, I arrived there at 6.50am and went to clinical admissions. Having received no letter, I gave the nurse my name and then waited for 40 minutes to be called. This nurse had obviously not done anything as, when I went to the desk, the senior nurse then realised the mistake, phoned St Thomas’ and advised me to get on the staff bus to that hospital. She was very helpful and reassured me that I was not too late and that my operation would be third on the list.

I think we arrived at about 8-8.30am and were told by the unsympathetic doctor, who hurriedly asked me to sign the consent form, that I probably would not get the operation today as I had not had the pre-assessment.

Eventually the situation was resolved by the woman who did the pre-assessment paperwork and arranged the various tests. This allowed for the operation to go ahead that day, though I had none of the notes to read through beforehand to understand what was going to happen. I went for the operation at about 2pm.

As you can imagine, the whole experience was made even more distressing than it already should have been. I feel more care should go into preparing patients for operations, making clear how a hospital works. I realise the postal strike made this unusual, but the letter could have been emailed to me at work or at home, and I could have gone in for the pre-assessment Monday and returned for the operation Tuesday.

Afterwards, I was not aware of when I should return for a follow-up appointment and so spent a lot of time phoning different people to find out. The administration side of going into hospital needs a lot of attention. It is just not clear that any one department is talking to another. I would phone a number, be transferred to an answer phone, or be passed from one person to another time after time.

My operation involved removing a granulosa thema cell tumour. Questions come to my mind now that I didn’t think of in the little time I had with the doctors and surgeons. It would be very useful if a clinic or nurse was available so that I could ask a few more questions to get myself back on track both mentally and physically. All the information was there with the doctors and nurses, but I didn’t have the presence of mind to ask at the time.

On another matter I would like to say that my stay in the ward was made unpleasant by the inconsideration of other patients and visitors. There were usually 3 televisions on at most times, even late at night. No earphones were issued. Mobile phones were used constantly. One visitor made and received a succession of calls on his phone in the ward, while the person he was visiting had the TV turned up loud so she could hear above his conversations. I would like to suggest that, for the consideration of all patients, TVs should only be allowed on with earphones connected; that mobile phones should be kept on silent for the reception of messages; and that visitors should only be allowed to stay until 8pm.

Apart from the above, I must say that I appreciate the excellent care I received in St Thomas’. The nursing staff were wonderful, especially Staff Nurse Felicia. Thanks also to Barbara Anaes, the Gynaecology surgeon Mr Lawton, and Vivienne in the Gynae-Oncology department.

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