"My fracture experience at North Devon District Hospital"

About: North Devon District Hospital / Accident and emergency North Devon District Hospital / Trauma and orthopaedics South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust / Emergency ambulance

(as the patient),

One evening in June 2010 at approximately 6:30pm, I suffered an accident in my garden, breaking my left knee. An ambulance was called but took two hours to reach me, the initial call elicited the response "Was the knee deformed", answer "No" as trousers were worn. NHS Direct will ring in less than 59 minutes.

Twenty minutes later, considering the swelling and intense pain, a 999 call for an ambulance was made. My daughter was told an ambulance would be on its way within an hour. Sometime later, yet again, an ambulance was summoned and this time, one was deployed. Welcome pain relief was administered and I arrived at the North Devon District Hospital at approximately 10pm.

Admitted to A&E, I felt very cold as I had already spend 2 hours in my garden unable to move. The air conditioning vent was directly above me and it was very draughty. I was examined and x-rayed. The next thing I remember, the most uncomfortable plastic splint had been put round my leg. The splint had very sharp edges at both thigh and ankle and was the most uncomfortable as it seemed too long for my leg. I was then moved to Capener ward where I was very well cared for.

It was difficult for me to find out what was happening. I was told an RSI scan was scheduled for 10am and I was given nothing to eat as I was suppose to be operated on later that day. Eventually, the scan took place at 4:15pm and afterwards, I was given something to eat. I was told I would be the first on the operating list on Saturday but relegated to the end, therefore again, I had nothing to eat for the most of the day.

The IV pain relief made a loud noise every time I pressed the button and kept the whole bay awake most of the Friday night through to the day. The staff silenced the alarm and told me to keep my hand still as the tube was being blocked, therefore triggering the alarm. It meant the only pain killers I had in effect were the oral painkillers given on the drug round as I was too afraid to press the button and disturb my fellow patients.

After the IV was removed, oral pain relief was generous but it took time for the staff to find sometime to administer it. Everyone seemed to be doing at least two things at once. It seemed a long time before the bells were answered especially when I needed a wee. It also took time for the pan to be removed and often it overflowed and my bed had to be changed.

Taken to the x-ray department near lunch time, I was left alone with the operator and after the procedure, pushed out into the corner with abandoned wheel chair and equipment.

I hijacked a porter to take me back to Capener Ward at 2:30 as I was hungry and feared I had been forgotten. Having to look up notes for every patient meant all rounds took longer than usual. My fellow patients and I noticed the "clip board Brigade" as we named them, who seemed to swan round with no particular purpose.

There were so many different doctors and nurses, it was difficult to know who had done what and being told I would be discharged in less than a week, sent me into blind panic.

I had only just received my elbow clutches and had no idea how to use them. My husband is not feeling well, and having to get a bed downstairs and have a seat installed worried him considerably.

Eventually, I was able to practise using the crutches and was discharged home with lots of help and advice from the Physio and Occupational Therapist which was very much appreciated.

I had a joint cast which kept sliding and hurting my arm. I also had a blister under the cast at the back of my thigh which was very painful but the staff were too busy to look.

I returned to the fracture clinic in July and had a new cast put on. This was much better than the original one.

Eventually my cast was removed and I was told to gradually start weight bearing. The doctor also told me I ought to be walking without elbow clutches by the time my next appointment was due which was 6 weeks later. Surely if the surgeon had read my notes and saw the type of fracture I had, he would not have recommended this course of action.

In September, six weeks after my last appointment, I saw the surgeon who performed the operation on my knee. Studying the x-ray taken that day and comparing them to the ones taken earlier, I was told that my knee had not stayed in the right alignment. In his opinion, I shouldn't have been weight bearing for another two or three weeks. I made it known that I wasn't happy about the situation and I had a very nice letter from the consultant assuring me that the advice had been given in good faith.

I do not remember the names of all the doctors/surgeons who attended to me but find it quite baffling that I should be given wrong instruction by one of the team. If it transpires that I will need further surgery in the future, it would mean more suffering for me and more work and expenses for your hospital.

I cannot speak highly enough of your staff, Nurses, HCA's, Cleaners, OT's, Physios were all wonderfully dedicated to getting their patients well. Mostly the food was every good and even brilliant on occasions with clear choices and attractive presentations. I found it puzzling though, when the floor was cleaned with just water. surely a detergent of some kind could have removed the dirt. Hand hygiene was excellent.

In conclusion, my experience as a patient was singularly educational. The staff were under great stress at all times and it was obvious from the number of agency staff that all is not what it should be at your hospital and things may not improve in the current economic climate.

Whilst doctors from foreign countries are probably very well qualified, perhaps the attitude of some to patients or perhaps women might make it difficult for them to explain all that we would like to know.

While they have many patients to treat, an individual patient is concerned with their own well-being, and that is not apparently part of their remit. Explanations take time, I know but with a fluent English speaker, we can ask and understand the respond and be reassured.

I still think you have a good hospital of which you should be justifiably proud.

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