Saturday, 21 September 2013

The good, the bad and the ugly in the NHS

A short post about my current dealings with the NHS - I'm sure many more will follow, if only for my own sanity.

My mum was admitted to a ward in the early hours of Tuesday morning after fracturing her pelvis on Monday afternoon.

The care she received in A&E couldn't be faulted. However, since she's been on the ward, we're talking a real mixed bag.  I've seen staff members who are doing a job that they truly love and the fact that they care, and want to make people feel better while bringing a smile to patients' faces, shines through them.

And then I've seen the others ...

Those that make you question why they're doing the job.  Those that make you want to say, 'Would you like your mother to be treated like that or spoken to in that way?' Those that you can only describe as sadists.

If one male nurse can deliver and administer a bed pan with care and ease, why can't another?  How come one can have sensitivity and a light, jokey manner and another, quite frankly, couldn't give a sh*t.  It's OK, I have both names and I WILL take action - the first will be nominated as the 'shining star' that this particular hospital is looking for, the second will hopefully end up flipping burgers and not the elderly.

What worries me is, I'm there to fight for my mum - but what about the times I can't be?  And what about those patients who have nobody?

I know that the NHS is under huge pressure and is short staffed.  I also know that those in the profession work incredibly long shifts but that is never an excuse for rough treatment, harsh words or lack of patience.

My lessons to some of the people I've dealt with would be:

Do not roll your eyes at a patient at one o'clock in the morning when they are in shock and scared, purely because they are hard of hearing.

Remember that you may need someone to care for your mum, dad or grandparent. How would you like them to be treated?  Are you delivering that level of care?

The hard of hearing are not stupid - don't treat them like idiots. Also, don't just assume that they've heard what you've said - they are very clever at nodding and pretending they've heard, purely because they don't want to keep asking you to repeat yourself.

Be gentle and kind. You are in the 'caring' profession - if you're not doing that, leave.

Don't tell a patient to stop taking medication and then ask them why they're not taking it. A) they were told to stop B) it's been taken from them and is locked away.

Never tut at a patient EVER - not for asking for a second commode in an hour and not because they didn't hear what you said. Just don't!

If you don't know the answer to something, don't just shrug. Tell the next of kin that you will find someone who can help.

Don't lock horns with the next of kin - you won't win.  We're watching you and you will pay.

And what have I learned?

To suck up to the goodies - they are our friends and we want to keep them on side.

To have my say, quietly and calmly and then to allow the baddies to mouth off while I nod and make a note of their name.

That every minute feels like an hour.

That I need to be there for as many of those minutes as I can to make sure that my mum is treated properly. It's the least I owe her and I will do it with love, and cherish every moment spent with her.

Sadly, going by my current experience, the baddies outweigh the goodies.

I don't want to get old.


  1. I've been there Amanda, and what a shock I had! It was my mother-in-law, and never before had I seen this 'nasty' side of the NHS. Fortunately, I visited every day to feed her, and to fight her corner. The whole experience was a living nightmare and your mum is very lucky to have you to care for her. Take care of yourself - it is a truly heartbreaking and tiring time and let's hope you get her home soon, xxx

  2. I can add ... if an old person tells you they need a zimmer frame, it means she needs a zimmer frame and you will be unable to support her on your own. And when she's x-rayed in case her leg is broken after she falls, don't find excuses that make it look like her fault ...

    And, yes, find the good souls and support them - their job is almost as tough as yours. They need to know we appreciate all they try to in in the face of a culture that seems to want nothing more than get rid of the frail and vulnerable,

  3. I went through it with my Mum 2 years ago. It's a long story but I was so worried about the lack of care and compassion my Mum was receiving, I (along with my brother and sister) stayed with her 24/7. Mum was treated roughly, a nurse tried to double dose her on medication she shouldn't have been I say there is too much to say on here. I was so mad I confronted the lead consultant 'looking after' my Mum. He took me into a side room and told me what he thought of me, my brother and sister and how we 'interfered' in Mum's care. I have never stood up to anyone in authority before but my god did I let him have it with both barrels! I felt proud of myself the way I handled things, I wasn't rude and didnt raise my voice, I was polite but got my point across. I would do the same again for my Mum as I felt so protective and didn't want her to suffer. Sadly my Mum passed away shortly after this incident but I have no regrets that we all did our very best to protect her against a very uncaring NHS. Out of all the nurses who 'looked after her' I could single out one who actually seemed to care. I can't bear the words 'lessons must be learned' because it is still happening every day in our NHS and sadly will continue to do so whilst uncaring people are employed by the NHS.

  4. Thank you all for your comments.
    ANON that is so sad but well done you for sticking up for your mum and being there for her.
    How did you get permission to be there so often?! I have to fight for my brief morning check on my mum and then we stay for the whole visiting time between us (3 sisters)
    I quite simply can't get my head around why anyone would do the job if they don't care - some can't even smile. So sad.

  5. We got round the 24/7 with great difficulty! I may add that this was in a central London hospital - Mum was on an NHS ward and suffered so badly we paid for her to be on the private wing in the hopes the care would be better - sadly it was just as bad, if not worse. It took 10 hours one day to get a doctor to visit Mum. Because there had been so many problems and things going wrong I asked for a blow up bed to be installed in the room which, begrudgingly they allowed and looking back, I'm so glad we did it. When the elderly (or young)are sick they certainly need someone fighting their corner 'cos they sure as hell need it! Good luck with your Mum and I'm sorry that you're going through it too. Keep fighting and DON'T EVER GIVE UP! We only get one Mum in this life and they are very precious xx

  6. That's just horrendous, Amanda. And it's so disgusting that we hear about this kind of thing happening all the time. I hope you achieve something when you make a complaint. You're right, that person (or persons) deserve to be flipping burgers!
    I hope your Mum is okay now xx

  7. Hi Amanda, have just caught up with this entry and it makes me so sad to think that staff behave like this. I work in a really busy theatre suite within the West of England Eye unit. The majority of my patients are elderly, often disabled and usually scared. The last thing they need is some uncaring individual looking after them. Our unit prides itself on the care our patients receive, we may work long hours, and yes it can be very stressful but at the end of the day we are there to "Do No Harm". I'm so sorry you've had such a poor experience, hope your mum is on the mend and soon be home.
    Take care
    Karen xx