"Compassion is sometimes lacking"

About: Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh at Little France / Accident & Emergency Scottish Ambulance Service

(as the patient),

I became unwell while out in public, a passer-by stopped to assist me and took the decision to dial 999 for an ambulance. The passer-by told the 999 call taker the information on my medic alert bracelet and also pointed it out to the ambulance crew. This was ignored by the ambulance crew who said it was "irrelevant" and assessed me as having a panic attack. During my time in their alleged care I was treated with only the very basic of courtesy and it was only on my request that a blood sugar reading was taken. As I was feeling very unwell I did not feel able to tell them again about my bracelet.

Upon arrival at A+E it was reported that I was just having a panic attack and all observations were normal. I was then told to sit in a small waiting area to be triaged. When the nurse came to triage me I was talked to with disdain and was asked the circumstance of my being in A+E. I did my best to explain about being unwell and a passer-by calling 999 on my behalf. The nurse stated that I was obviously just anxious and I was asked "what made you think this is an emergency". I attempted to explain the situation again but I was dismissed to wait for a Dr.

After a short wait the Dr came to talk with me. It was only at this point that I feel I was listened to. The Dr arranged for some tests to be done and genuinely was very compassionate. The Dr had obviously been able to access my hospital records and was well aware of the information held on my medic alert bracelet. When the same nurse came to carry out some of the tests I was happened to ask what I do. I replied, honestly, that I am currently awaiting treatment for a brain tumour - information that the ambulance crew would have had if they had taken notice of my bracelet.

From that moment, the attitude of the nurse changed dramatically. On discharge and recalling the nurse's question to me about why I thought my situation that day was an emergency I stopped and apologised for having wasted both the nurse's and the Dr's time. I really will never forget the response which was "oh, it's fine, I didn't realise you actually had something wrong with you".

It would seem that being prejudged by the ambulance crew led to hostility from A+E staff which was only resolved when the Dr was able to access my clinical information. I feel this is a disgusting way to approach patients and also highly judgemental. Thankfully on this occasion no harm was caused. My consultants have told me that should I feel uncharacteristically unwell I ought to dial 999. I will absolutely hesitate to do so after this experience. Feeling unwell and being treated like this is remarkably upsetting never mind having to cope with the pain and treatment that comes with a brain tumour.

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Response from Sharon Hammell, Head of Corporate Affairs and Engagement, Scottish Ambulance Service

Thank you for sharing this feedback. I am sorry that you felt ignored by the ambulance crew who attended you. I am very concerned about the care experience you have described. Would you mind getting in touch with me, so I can follow up on this for you?

I can be contacted at the Scottish Ambulance Service's National Headquarters on 0131 446 7000. Again, I'd be really grateful if you were willing to talk to me further on this.

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Response from Lee McGuinness, Surgical Nurse Director, NHS Lothian

Thank you for passing this information to NHS Lothian. NHS Lothian expects all patients to be treated with compassion and respect and find this behaviour to be unacceptable.

If you could send the NHS Lothian Complaints Team your name and address we will investigate this issue fully - complaints.team@nhslothian.scot.nhs.uk or NHS Lothian Complaints Team, 2nd Floor, Waverley gate, 2-4 Waterloo Gate, EDINBURGH EH1 3ET

Please accept our apologies for your distressing exerperience.

NHS Lothian

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Update posted by UnicornsAreReal (the patient)

I am willing to talk with both the Scottish Ambulance Service and NHS Lothian about this.

However, I would like some kind of reassurance that if I ever had no other choice but to contact either the ambulance service via 999 or NHS Lothian via A+E, that speaking up about this matter will not prejudice future treatment.

I am sure you will understand my concern.

Response from NHS Lothian

This is often how complainants feel but I can absolutely assure you that there is no detrimental effect on the treatment given to a complainant.

Complaints files are not kept in patients clinical records so staff who treat you will not be aware of it.

We will investigate the matter via the management system and actions will be put in place to address any deficits found.

If you contact us with your name and details we will investigate your issue via the Complaints Process.

Please give us a call on 0131 536 3370.

NHS Lothian - Lee McGuinness

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Response from Sharon Hammell, Head of Corporate Affairs and Engagement, Scottish Ambulance Service

Thank you for agreeing to provide more information, so we can build a more detailed picture of your experience.

This will not prejudice any care we provide to you in the future.

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Response from Sharon Hammell, Head of Corporate Affairs and Engagement, Scottish Ambulance Service

Hello again

I have followed up on the information you provided about your experience. I found our last telephone conversation helpful and would like to speak to you again. I have tried calling you on the number I have for you, but have been unsuccessful. When convenient, would you mind calling me again, please, on 01313 446 7000.


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Update posted by UnicornsAreReal (the patient)

I would like to briefly update this. Since writing about my experience here I have had very helpful and reassuring conversations with the Scottish Ambulance Service. At a face-face meeting I was able to talk through what happened and ask some questions that I had. I felt comfortable and free to say what I needed to and I feel very validated and understood.

I thank the staff members of the Scottish Ambulance Service who talked with me for their time and understanding.