"Still operating in the dark ages - but what choice..."

About: The Royal Victoria Infirmary

Anything else?

Let me explain. As a patient, choice is supposed to be important, but, in terms of neurosurgery we only have one department in the region; a 'centre of excellence'. Although I don't think I have many general concerns over the competency of the surgical skills the teams at the RVI demonstrate, I have grave concerns that some consultants work purely to what they perceive the scans to show, rather than what the patient actually tells them. The wait for appointments post-referral and the actual in-hospital out-patient wait are both unacceptably high. Once I had to wait four months for an appointment and then four hours to see a doctor once in the department. All this, for a consultation that barely took 2 (two!) minutes and could easily have been sorted out months previously via telephone. I had been led to believe that neurosurgery had 'put its house in order' when compared to the general air of arrogance and lack of empathy shown by surgeons in the past. I have yet to experience this.

Some flesh on the bones... Unfortunately I 'slipped a couple of discs' in my neck in May 2011 and, unfortunately, I am medically qualified as a doctor although do not currently engage in clinical work. I suffered really bad arm pain and had some numbness and a slight weakness in one arm. I had the appropriate initial medical management and was referred urgently to neurosurgery on presentation of the power deficit, whereupon I had an MRI which showed (amongst other things) two slipped discs in my neck. My limited understanding of neurosurgery told me that really, in order to obtain the best longterm result (especially in relation to the numbness and power issues) was to operate quickly. I was, eventually, listed for an operation - single-level ACDF (with no discussion or explanation as to why the higher level was left alone, despite (what had been shown to me to be a prolapse on MRI) some seven months later. (To be absolutely fair, I did have a nerve root injection that produced a good result for a limited length of time but the result had been 'misfiled' and mysteriously not found until I actually managed to get a response from my surgeon.) After the op, all was well, in fact, brilliant for six weeks. But that's where the goodness ceases. Since this time (over a year now) I have higher level symptoms bilaterally in both hands, arms, shoulders and my neck. I have numbness, am dropping and smashing things regularly, have twitching fingers and stonking headaches all of which have produced the reply, "Well the scan doesn't look too bad" from my consultant!!! And I'm a knowledgeable person - a member of the profession - how are they treating those who do not have this knowledge? I am now at my wits end taking analgesics four times a day, every day and crying in pain if I miss them (I even set an alarm!) and a whacking dose of a longer-acting medication. I've had another root injection - which was great! For two days!!! And then a review in four months! Aaaaarrrrgggghhhhh!

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Response from The Royal Victoria Infirmary

Thank you for taking the time to post your comments on NHS Choices website. We would like to apologise that your experience of the Neurosurgical Department has not met your expectations.  Unfortunately as this feedback has been posted anonymously we are unable to investigate or comment on your particular case and so are only able to make some generalised comments.  If you would like us to investigate further and provide you with an individual response, please contact us on the number below, and we would be happy to do so.

We do recognise that patients attending the Neurosurgical Department for planned appointments or surgery can experience some delays. Usually this is due to the volume of emergency/urgent patients being treated within the Department as we are a specialist centre. However any delays should have been fully explained to you at the time, and an apology offered. I am sorry if this wasn’t the case on this occasion.

Our Consultant Neurosurgeons use a combination of the patient’s history, symptoms and the results of diagnostic tests, including MRI/CT scans in order to recommend a management plan.  Unfortunately, on occasions, even when patients are experiencing significant symptoms, surgery or further surgery may not be the most appropriate course of action and patients are offered alternative, conservative modes of treatment.  We always recommend that should patients feel that their symptoms are worsening between appointments then they should contact their General Practitioner who can advise and liaise with the appropriate Consultant Neurosurgical team.

If you would like a more detailed investigation and response into the issues that you have reported on this website, please contact Mr Paul Anderson, Patient Relations Manager or Ms Rebekah Mercer, Directorate Manager, Neurosciences on 0191 233 6161.

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