"Communication was the problem"
About: Torbay Hospital Torbay Hospital Torquay TQ2 7AA
Posted by Freya Devon
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.