"Communication was the problem"

About: Torbay Hospital

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My mother was in the hospital for about 5 months in 2011. She began in a general surgery ward, where she was for 2 or 3 months and it is to this phase of her hospitalisation that my comments refer. She is elderly and the infection she had caused her to become delirious, which did make it difficult to treat her, particularly as she was refusing food and medication over an extended period of time. All the staff were caring and seemed fairly skilled as individuals but I am confident that if I had not been visiting every day, she would not have survived. This is because I found that systems of communication between the staff on the different shifts were very poor. For example, it was acknowledged by staff that strategies for persuading my mother to take drugs or food were of importance and I was involved in making suggestions of a practical nature (e.g. showing my mother the labels on drugs bottles and referring to a list I had written made her more likely to overcome fear of being poisoned). I was treated with respect and my suggestions were considered well and the nurse would say that she would pass the information on at handover. This she would do, but the information never seemed to get beyond the second person. I found myself having to repeat this information every day. After a few months I did try to insist that the information be written on the file and things did improve, but very often even then it seemed that people were not reading it. I say that the situation was worse in the surgery ward than when she later went to a more general elderly ward. By this stage I think I realised that I needed to check when anything important was concerned. My daughter was in Torbay Hospital for about a week the previous year in the older children's' ward. Staff and facilities were fantastic. I cannot recall details but I do however remember noticing that there were persistent communication failures within the nursing team and also between the doctors and nurses.

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Response from Torbay Hospital

Dear Ms Devon Thank you for taking the time to comment. It is always good to receive feedback; we try to ensure we share examples of good practice and also that we learn from any negative experiences. We are very sorry to hear about your experience of poor communication during your mother's stay at our hospital, and that the standard of her care fell below that which we strive to provide. Unfortunately as more than a year has passed since the episode of care you refer to happened it would be difficult to look into the specifics of this care, and likewise with regard to your daughter's care the previous year. We can however provide your feedback to the Matron for surgical services so that she may look at it in general terms to see if there are any improvements that can be made with regard to communication and handover in particular. Thank you again for taking the time to comment. Please be assured your feedback is appreciated and will be taken seriously. South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

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