"Sigmoidoscopy at Outpatients in Endoscopy Clinic at Royal Bolton Hospital"

About: Royal Bolton Hospital / Colorectal surgery

(as a friend),

I accompanied my friend (a woman in her 50s) in April 2011 whilst she went for a sigmoidoscopy at the General Outpatients of the Royal Bolton Hospital. Her appointment was scheduled for 10am, and we arrived just before 9.30am. The staff in the area was lovely and pleasant and put my friend at ease who was somewhat nervous anyway as she suffered from anxiety which is part of the reason I went along with her.

Shortly after 10am, we were still waiting and by 10.15am it was becoming apparent something had happened possibly with the previous patient in the room, as there was some whispering going on with staff, which only served to make my friend more anxious. However the patient in question did appear so feeling relieved my friend thought it would only be a matter of time until she would be called in.

Eventually, come 10.30am, more ‘talking between staff’ took place and it became apparent from what we overheard that some equipment had broken down, what equipment was anyone’s guess? Just after 10.30am, a staff member noticed we had been sat there a long time and went to check up what was happening, at this point my friend was becoming a little agitated again.

This pleasant member of staff came back a few minutes later and explained that some equipment had broke but that they were cleaning the one upstairs that was normally used and that my friend would be taken upstairs as soon as possible in order for the procedure to be carried out up there.

By 11.15 we were still sat waiting and my friend was becoming more anxious, she trotted off to find out what was happening, pretty much ready for giving up and going home. She found the Nurse Practitioner who came out from the room who was doing the procedure who said it would not be much longer – about another 10 minutes to wait and she apologised explaining there had been complications with the equipment. We went back to wait and about 7 minutes later my friend finally went in and I went to sit in another area where there were more comfortable chairs in order to wait for my friend to return.

What amazed me the most was that I had only been sat down about 5 minutes whilst waiting for my friend when an elderly couple appeared with a nurse wearing a blue uniform, it soon emerged that the gentleman was in fact due to go in after my friend, so perhaps his appointment was scheduled for 10.30am. Both of them were offered a simple but full explanation of what the delay was in which I was privy to listen to, it turned out the sterilising equipment had in fact broken down.

They were told how they had cancelled all the next day’s patients, but because of the preparation, he had done for the procedure they would send him upstairs at 1.30pm and put him first on the list for that afternoon. They checked to see if he had a car park ticket – he did and took his car registration number to phone through to the car park attendants to warn of his delay in outpatients. Both of them were offered hot drinks and biscuits.

I was pleased to see the elderly treated with dignity and respect, but ‘we’ suffered a delay of over 90 minutes - 2 hours if you take into account the fact we arrived half an hour before the allocated appointment time. We could have incurred extra expenses in the car park. I was eventually offered a cup of coffee (finally a relief considering I am diabetic) and I only got this after my friend prompted for it from this nurse in the blue uniform, who also never did return with our biscuits!

The staff were friendly but the lack of communication over ‘what went wrong’ only served to make my friend feel more nervous and anxious and it was a struggle to make her stay to see out the appointment and stay for the procedure, thankfully she did.

I have endless experience in dealing with hospitals as a patient, a carer, and a hospital volunteer for a mental health charity as the vice chair for a patient forum. One thing I am keen to strive and work towards is a clear perspective that communication is very important between staff and patients because if puts them at ease. Whispering and disappearing around corners to talk about what has gone wrong only serves to make nervous patients more anxious.

I have to be truthful though, the majority of the staff in the outpatients that day were friendly, helpful and reassuring.

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