"Despite its accommodation shortcomings, is still..."

About: St Mark's Hospital (Harrow)

What I liked

The knowledge and expertise of the more senior staff, in particular the doctors (at all levels) and Ward Sisters (plus the specialist nurses). I make fairly lengthy trips to St. Mark's as it is the centre of expertise for bowel polyposis. The fact that the clinicians lead the way for research and expertise in this field makes it worth the inconvience of travel.

Following my total colectomy I was amazed by the fact that I was discharged after only three days. I had been told to expect a 5 night stay, but the Enhanced Recovery Programme meant that I was back on my feet and walking the day after surgery and off all drugs / drips (other than basic Paracetamol) after one more day. The staff really helped me to think that a swift recovery was possible and the excellently carried-out surgical procedure was critical in setting me on this path.

Whilst I would not say the food was a particularly good, it did its job and was reasonably varied.

What could be improved

St Mark's suffers from some of the more common problems in most NHS hospitals. In particular, there need to be more staff resources. The staff on the wards (especially the more experienced ward sisters and specialist practitioners), on the Fredrick Salmon Ward at least, were excellent, but are just too over-worked. This means that you spend too much time (particularly at night) dealing with care assistants who don't know anything and aren't capable of making any useful clinical decisions (e.g. replacing a bag of fluids with a new when it runs out).

Similar pressures can be seen in the out-patients department. In my many trips there, I have never been seen on time. This no longer bothers me as I understand that it is going to happen and understand that appointments really can vary in their needs (I, myself, have had some out-patient appointments of under 10 minutes and others of over an hour, dependant on the need). However, this simply is not communicated anywhere and I understand entirely when some patients get very frustrated and angry at waiting. Surely it would be possible to just update the whiteboard every 30 mins or so to say how far behind schedule things are running? (although I recognise that it is not quite that simple, as there are multiple clinics each made up of multiple doctors each day). Some basic communication that keeps patients informed can make life much easier.

The biggest criticism of St Mark's and Northwick Park, though, is the building and facilities. The wards aren't in the best condition and I was incredibly frustrated with lack of much to do or different places to go once I was up on my feet. In comparison with the latest PFI hospitals the Fredrick Salmon Ward was lacking in so many things. Oh, and why isn't there a chilled water tap somewhere?

Anything else?

So, a real mix: I would say that it is very strong on the important things (expertise, not treating you like an idiot, making the right clinical decisions, carrying out medical procedures as well as possible) but poor on the less important (and probably much harder to change) things (such as facilities and accommodation).

Nevertheless, despite some of its shortcomings I am very pleased that St Mark's has been treating me for the past three or four years and will continue to do so for as long as I need to be seen.

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Response from St Mark's Hospital

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