"My mother was admitted to hospital ..."

About: Kent & Sussex Hospital

(as a relative),

What I liked

My mother was admitted to hospital for pneumonia (both viral and bacterial). She saw the consultant on the ward and later as an outpatient at the thoracic (chest) clinic. My mother had scarring to the lungs caused by TB in childhood. The old scarring caused the consultant to become totally confused. She also had a ball of fungal infection (aspergillus niger) which also caused a mis-diagnosis. She was discharged from hospital once the worst of her symptoms were gone, but she still had a persistent cough and felt week and poorly. She then made regular trips (weekly) to the thoracic clinic where the consultant diagnosed aspergillosis (allergy to the fungus, but my knowledge of inflammatory disease and allergies lead me to believe this diagnosis was false). During her regular appointments the staff at reception were unsympathetic keeping her waiting at each stage of her appointment eg. X-ray, blood tests, seeing the consultant. The coordination of patients was unfair as my mother was extremely ill and had should never have been discharged as she still had a chest infection (although her consultant was not aware). Other patients appeared well and looked like they were there for routine check-ups. My mother should have been given priority. Once she felt so bad after waiting an hour, that we just left. It was exhausting for her just sitting around for the doctor; she couldn't wait to get home to bed! Another time she collapsed and fainted from fatigue and stress when the nurses were taking her blood, she should have been lying down!! Her consultant did tests every week, but she didn’t get any better from the steroids and inhaler her was giving her. When the family became suspicious that he didn't know what he was doing and she wasn't getting any better, we found a professor at the London Chest Hospital. After much negotiation with the NHS trust that at first refused to refer her on account of the cost, we got to see someone who knew what they were doing. The professor took one look at her x-rays and immediately diagnosed that her chest infection had not been properly treated. He said the aspergillosis was a red herring; the fungal ball was not the cause of her illness although he did feel the need to monitor its presence. He admitted her to the London hospital where she had specialised antibiotics prescribed, and physiotherapy, and after a few treatments and a few months, she eventually made a dramatic recovery. But she had this lung infection for a year longer than she should have. She now does not constantly cough all the time. However the fact that the lung infection went on so long undiagnosed, caused her to develop lung damage called bronchiectasis, which causes mucus to trap in the lungs, get infected and bring about another round of coughing and illness. Also the delay in correct diagnosis and treatment that resulted in prolonged coughing has caused her to develop a prolapsed womb necessitating a hysterectomy and repair work (more expense to the NHS). She still gets the odd cough but has antibiotics at the ready, and now only sees the consultant every year, who is very pleased with her progress. There were times when we thought she would die! My advice - keep well away from the thoracic department, especially if your case is complicated.

What could be improved

This doctor is a consultant, so you get the impression from their title that this means they know what they are doing. Evidently this is not the case, and my mother's illness was completely out of his league. (Also why was no physio prescribed at the K&S?). He should have referred her to someone more experienced and senior. I suspect that the consultant did not refer my mother when he should have to save the NHS money, as the treatments that the professor gave my mother at the London Chest Hospital are expensive. But a quick diagnosis would have brought about a quicker recover and would have been cheaper in the long run, and she may not have needed the hysterectomy. Besides, if a consultant cannot deal with the case, it should be a matter of course to refer the patient. I don't understand why he could not have sent the x-rays to the professor in London for his opinion, and then treated her accordingly. Very bizarre. Really I think that as a family we should have made a formal complaint because I think this consultant is a potential danger in serious / complicated cases like my mothers. Also the procedures at reception need changing and the staff need to be trained better in patient care!! At the London Chest Hospital it was clean, all the staff remembered my mothers name and people didn't keep forgetting key factors in her case notes. The consultant asked my mother on several different occassions have you had TB before? My mother was infuriated.

Story from NHS Choices

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