"Experience of A&E at Hairmyres Hospital"

About: Hairmyres Hospital / Emergency department

(as a relative),

My father was admitted to Hairmyres through A&E after having a heart attack. I drove my father to the hospital A&E myself, and we arrived at the reception desk where a receptionist asked for my father's details and symptoms.

The receptionist seemed to be in training as she was unsure of how the computer system worked and was being guided by a senior colleague, which lengthened the process of collecting my father's details and arranging for him to be seen by a doctor. The receptionist also asked us to look at a sheet of paper stapled to the reception desk, and identify which 'ethnic group' we belonged to.

If my father had been brought to A&E with a milder complaint such as a sprained ankle, I would have been more than happy to wait an extra five minutes to allow the trainee receptionist to learn on the job. I would also have been happy to look through the ethnic grouping list carefully and tell her which category we belonged to.

However, as a final year medical student, I was surprised and distressed by the receptionist's lack of insight into the gravity of the situation i.e. an elderly man complaining of chest pain and arm numbness. In such a case, a delay of 5 minutes can contribute to 5 minutes more irreversible damage to the heart muscle, in other words, time is muscle. I would have thought that ethnic origin could be established once my father was given adequate pain relief and medication to stabilise his heart. In such situations, I suggest that an experienced receptionist quickly and efficiently deals with the patient and chooses the patient cases for training colleagues more appropriately.

I would also mention that I was told to wait in the A&E waiting room for almost 2 hours with no word from staff as to whether my father was alive or dead. When I asked the receptionist for help on this matter I was told that 'someone would let me know when I could go through'. It was later revealed that my father had requested to the A&E staff that I be kept informed of his situation whilst in the waiting room, and he was reassured by staff that someone was doing so and that there was a dedicated member of the team who was responsible for this job.

When I finally was informed of anything, I was told that my father was in the 'cath lab' and that more information would be given to me there. I was given directions and instructed to go and find him (on my own). I would like to mention that saying the words 'cath lab' to a relative is not appropriate especially if no further information is given, and to a lay person this phrase could be taken as anything from a mortuary laboratory to any other kind of laboratory.

As a medic, I immediately had to assume that my father had definitely had a heart attack and was now undergoing a procedure with potentially fatal complications. When I did reach the catheterisation lab, the nurse in charge was surprised as to why I had been waiting in A&E for so long without any information.

I hope my experiences emphasise to the A&E staff the importance and responsibility of all members of the multidisciplinary team to initiate prompt action in life-threatening circumstances, and the importance of honesty (when falsely reassuring a patient) and communication with relatives in serious situations.

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Response from Rosemary Lyness, Executive Clinical Director, NHS Lanarkshire

picture of Rosemary Lyness

Dear Relative and Medic,

Thank you for telling us about your experience, I am sorry to hear that it was a negative one. I hope that your experience of the rest of the hospital was more positive and that your father was treated well.

NHS Lanarkshire joined Patient Opinion in May 2013 and we have been responding to submissions since then.

I would like to acknowledge your submission which was posted before we became a member. I would be happy to hear from you again through Patient Opinion or you can go to the “Contact Us” section of the NHS Lanarkshire website to see the other ways to get in touch www.nhslanarkshire.org.uk

I hope any subsequent experiences with NHS Lanarkshire have been more positive.

Kind regards

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