Monday, 13 May 2013

NHS hospital mistake - confusion

Some of my regular readers will have realised I have not been able to post much recently because I am unwell. I published an article last week about my experience in hospital refuting the absence of compassion in the NHS. I experienced a great deal of compassionate treatment. But I also saw at first hand some of the problems patients experience in hospital.

One of these was the number of different members of staff coming  in an out of the ward. To say the least it leaves a patient very confused about what they are doing and, more importantly what their position and functions are. You got to recognise a 'doctor' by the fact that they were the ones who didn't wear a uniform. In fact they were rather shoddily attired for the most part. It isn't that they don't introduce themselves, it is simply that a patient, certainly I and others on the ward, can't remember. On my ward it became a joke between us and the staff. They would ask us if we could remember, and few of us could. One member of staff found it very funny, telling us that "Mr Cameron wants us to tell you our names!" Frankly it is the last thing on our minds, yet it is important to know. It is certainly important to know what they are there for.

When a member of staff picks your notes up and starts looking through them it would be nice to know why they are doing that and what right they have to do it. After a couple of days I got to recognise some faces but I still could not recall what they were or did. Of course they wore badges with their names and position on them, but frankly I couldn't see what they said. Some nurses did not introduce themselves before taking my blood pressure. It would have been nice if they had reminded me (I am sure they must have told me at some time, perhaps). "Good morning, I am nurse Natasha Jones (or some such) and I am going to take your blood pressure this morning."  Some of them turned the machine away from me so  I could not see it.  I can read blood pressures; I know what it means. They took the measurement and walked away. Nobody ever told me whether my blood pressure was improving or getting worse, or whether it was going up and down. I would rather like to know.

I could not understand why it was necessary for the nursing assistant to look through my notes. He certainly did not tell me why he had done so, and I only realised he was a nursing assistant later. Frankly I don't want people wandering up and reading my notes without telling me why. In fact I don't want anyone reading my notes without telling me why, unless I am asleep and they have good reason to read them. I don't want anyone approaching my bed without telling me what they are doing there.

Being unwell can be accompanied with a great deal of confusion. But sometimes a patient's judgement is worth its weight in gold. This was brought home during my worst night in hospital when a nurse insisted on giving me an injection I did not want and had not had before and was convinced was not part of my prescribed treatment. I told her I was confused about it. She said I had had the injection before. I insisted I had not. I knew because it was intraperitoneal, injected in my tummy. I had not had that the night before as she had insisted. You had this last night she said. Oh no I don't think so I said. You will have to learn to do it yourself when you are discharged she said. Really? I asked. But nobody had mentioned it before. She gave me the injection and I had the most dreadful night. I had not had the injection before and nor was it on my notes and nor was I meant to have it. It was a mistake. The mistake could have been fatal. It would have been well for her to have listened to me, instead of simply assuming it was I who was confused. Indeed I was, but for the right reasons.  She should have checked. She was confused for the wrong reasons.

But there is another interesting thing about being a patient. It is that you become a patient. You trust the person at your bedside. I became so confused I was willing to believe I was ...confused. I was of course confused by being confused. It is a very muddling experience.

I am very grateful for the treatment I received. So much so that I have not taken further my experience with the mistaken injection. My family want me to take it further to ensure it doesn't happen again. Staff should learn from their mistakes. I am an ardent supporter of the NHS, there is nothing in my experience that has changed that. The staff work under considerable pressure and long hours.

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