Today I am going to have a rant – I haven’t had one for a while but this is something I feel very strongly about – and although it is not strictly a busy mum issue I know it is something that many families feel strongly about.
My dad died just over three years ago and the events which unfolded with his care during this time left me so disgusted that I felt that I needed to lodge a formal complaint.
So why, are you wondering, have I decided on my Help for Busy Mum website to blog about this right now. Well two reasons. One is that in the last week yet again the care of our elderly people in some NHS hospitals came under scrutiny in the press.
And number two I was with a lady last night whose mother died recently in a NHS hospital and told me the following story.
Her mother had suffered a serious stoke, was paralysed and could hardly speak or move. One of her nurses had been particularly rough with her on several occasions and she managed to communicate this rough treatment to her family.
At a round table meeting held with the family and medical staff – including the said nurse, one of the family members suggested that they were concerned about this rough treatment. However no names were mentioned or fingers pointed. All the staff present, including the nurse in question, looked concerned and promised they would make sure this did not happen again.
Later, the nurse in question came over to my friends mother and made it very clear she was very angry with her for telling her family about this rough treatment and insinuated she would pay for snitching to her relatives.
When my friend learnt that these threats had been made to her mum she wanted to take action and lodge a complaint. But her mum was scared that this may make matters even more difficult for her as she already felt very isolated and frightened.
A few days later my friend’s mum died. Now her Mum was very old and probably going to die anyway. But how horrific that a vulnerable old lady should spend her last few days of life feeling frightened of the very people who should have been showing her compassion and care.
The thing is my friend has not written and complained. (Well I am hoping she might now – after our discussion). But from her point of view her mum is dead, what good will it do. She is dealing with the aftermath of her mum’s passing and the grief that goes with that. Putting pen to paper and revisiting the awfulness and fear that her mum experienced in her last days is only going to add to her grief.
I did complain when my father was in hospital. Although my complaint was not targeted at one particular nurse, but the culture of the ward my father was a patient on.
The complaint process put me in touch with a lovely lady, a matron who literally spent hours on the phone smoozing me discussing my concerns. However despite the best efforts of this specialist complaints handling person, I did write and complain.
The letter I received back from the hospital left me seething. It was a “cover my back” letter, filled with excuses, from staff shortages to people standing in for others. Stuff like this happens in every walk of life all the time and people have to get on with it.
It did not accept there was a problem with the attitude of the staff or standard of care. It was just a lot of fluffy woolly language playing lip service to my complaints and probably copied and pasted from their standard response letter to complaints.
And guess what – by the time we received a response we had moved my father down to where we live. He was now seriously ill in Bournemouth hospital, where the care and attitude of the staff was a thousand times better. Although notably there were no Costa Coffee Shops, and the patients did not have electric beds.
I should have written again – and disputed their findings. But I could not find the energy, time or strength to fight an organisation which puts so much effort into finding excuses rather than making changes.
I do feel guilty about that. Some months later when my mother fell and broke her hip and ended up in yet another hospital I discovered that it is only written complaints that precipitate a properly recorded formal enquiry. Verbal complaints are not subject to such a rigorous process. So that very nice matron, aka specialist complaint handling person, who spent hours talking, or more like counselling me, was probably doing this to stop me lodging a formal written complaint.
So if you have experienced a problem with the care of a relative in hospital do write and lodge a formal complaint. However difficult it is to re visit the experience, however bad your grammar and spelling is, or how little time you have, it needs to be done. I am sure for every written complaint there will be many other incidents which have not been reported, or verbal complaints which have not been subject to a formal enquiry.
Without us all taking this action, hospitals with this indifferent culture will continue to operate in the same way, and vulnerable people will suffer.
By the way – thank you to all the hospitals that do a fantastic job treating vulnerable people with dignity and care.
End of rant.