Thursday 24 February 2011

A Hospital’s Ivory Tower

Solid wooden doors of polished oak, coffee served in china mugs. I’m no longer visiting ward 2 at the Leicester General Hospital. I’m in the domain of hospital management, the hospital’s ivory tower.

The Director of Nursing has invited me to meet with her. This is not to discuss my mother’s harrowing experience of hospital neglect which I wrote about here in my previous blog post. I’ll be meeting with the Board of the Trust to discuss that at a later date. This is a fact finding meeting to enable me to make sure that lessons really will be learned and changes really will be made.

The following day I have a telephone meeting with the Chief Executive of the Leicester NHS Trust. I have been trying to make contact with him since I first sent my complaint letter. We have a productive discussion around the two areas that I have identified, two areas where I am hoping that improvements can be seen to be made and can be monitored. The planning is still in its early stages but the two areas I’m targeting are:

Item 1:  To ensure that the nurse in charge of a ward is visible and available to both patients and visitors during each shift. 

Item 2:   To ensure that complaints are treated with urgency, respect and confidentiality.

The words are easy to type. The task is far tougher. I’m even having problems working out who is in charge of a hospital ward. I’ve been told that it’s a matron, a head nurse, a ward sister and/or a ward manager. So who exactly do I insist is visible and available to both patients and visitors? I’m starting to suspect that this is going to be a Kilimanjaro-style uphill struggle.

Item 2 proves to be even more of a problem. A complaints service must be respected by hospital users and not feared as it is by so many of the people who I have spoken to since my mother went into hospital. I’ve got to make sure that I fully understand the issues and ask for improvements that are demonstrable and quantifiable. Only then will this campaign succeed. I’m hoping to meet with the department as soon as possible.

Like I said, it’s a Kilimanjaro-style ascent, but I’m putting on my crampons, my oxygen mask is checked and packed, and I’ll keep you all posted as I climb.


Monday 21 February 2011

Care for the Elderly Campaign

Thank you The Leicester Mercury for launching this campaign here. An abridged version of the following article is featured on pages 6 and 7 of today’s paper. 

(In case you don't know, The Leicester Mercury is Leicester’s excellent, local newspaper.)

I have transcribed below the full story of my awful experience­, including the failure of PALS (Patient Advice and Liaison Service) to deal with my complaints.

I am sickened by the appalling treatment experienced by my mother during her recent stay at the Leicester General Hospital. I have spoken to many people in the local community about this and sadly my mother’s case would appear not to be an isolated one. Changes need to be made. Future patients must be protected from this negligence.

My mother was admitted to the Leicester General Hospital in January 2011 with what we now know to be a large, inoperable tumour in her oesophagus. She is 88 years old with limited mobility and, due to her condition, was unable to even lift her arms up. She spent several days in the Emergency Medical Unit. She was immobile with a drip in her arm. The buzzer by her bed was broken. No one came when she needed to go to the toilet. She cried as she told me how she was left sitting in her urine for the best part of her first night there. When I visited on her second day in the ward, the nurse who was meant to be responsible for her didn’t even know who she was or why she was there.

Following the diagnosis of the tumour she was moved to Ward 2. There ensued a catalogue of neglect and I have chosen the following to illustrate my concerns:

  • My mother picked up a diarrhoea bug in Ward 2 and was ill with this for two weeks. She lost a lot of weight and, especially as she is unable to eat any solids because of her condition, she became severely mal-nourished. I kept asking for her to be seen by a dietician but this took well over a week to organise.
  • In spite of my continual complaints, her body smelt and she was left wearing nighties, vests and pants that were stained with faeces.
  • The consultant prescribed steroids to be taken each morning but on the second day the pills took eight hours to come up from pharmacy.
  • The consultant said that she must put her swollen feet up on a stool yet it took two days for the nurses to produce one for her. I asked the nurses on several occasions for a stool and one nurse was even so rude as to roll her eyes and turn away from me.
  • A member of staff tipped a full bowl of soup over her but nobody would clean it off her feet and slippers. It was left to a visiting friend hours later to clean her up.
  • A doctor made such a mess of trying to insert a needle into her left hand that he caused the hand and arm to swell to such an extent that she had to have her ring cut from her finger. It was still swollen three weeks later. The consultant tried to tell me it was caused by a canula that had moved around but this was not true. They never managed to fix one into that hand.
  • I made a formal complaint to PALS, the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (I later discovered that it was in fact PILS). They organised a meeting for me with the consultant and the Ward 2 nurse-in-charge. When I turned up for the meeting I found my mother distraught, sitting in her own faceas, half-undressed. She had been pressing the buzzer for 45 minutes but no one had come. I repeatedly shouted for a nurse but there were none. After a further 5 minutes the consultant arrived, found a nurse to clean my mother and took me into a meeting room. I was satisfied that he had put right all my complaints regarding her medical care but the Ward 2 nurse-in-charge did not attend the meeting and by this time I was even more concerned about my mother’s care.
  • I made a second complaint to PALS (or PILS) but received no further response from them. I did, however, receive a response from members of the nursing staff who complained to me, in front of my mother, saying that I should not have reported them.

By the end of January my mother’s general health and morale were so low that I knew I had to remove her from the hospital or she would die there. 

She was finally discharged from the Leicester General Hospital on 3rd February, 2011 and is now in a lovely nursing home where they are not only caring for her original medical conditions but also for the problems caused by the hospital’s negligence. These include bedsores on her bottom, heel and elbow, an infection in her eye duct and a chesty cough. The bed sore on her elbow was assessed by the hospital as ‘red’. In fact, it was so bad that the nurses at the home spent over a week draining infected fluid from it.

I have written to Malcolm Lowe-Lauri, the Chief Executive of the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, informing him about this negligence. I have asked him for a promise of changes to be made. I have asked him to inform me of these changes as and when he makes them. Thankfully my mother is now in a caring and safe environment, the sort of environment that I used to think was offered by an NHS hospital. I would like some reassurance that the Leicester General Hospital can provide that environment for future patients.

I am more than prepared to continue with this complaint on my own but, sadly, I know that there are many other people in Leicester and Leicestershire who have had similar experiences. Some have told me that they were wary of complaining. Others have said that they were too exhausted with the worry of watching a member of their family being treated so badly to complain. Maybe as a group our voice will be louder. I am willing to organise a pressure group in Leicester to see changes made.

If you would like to add your name to the list of people supporting this campaign then please let me know in Comments below or email me on rosalind.kathryn @ Thank you for your support.

Friday 18 February 2011

Hospital Negligence – the start of a campaign

If you have access to a Leicester Mercury newspaper tomorrow (Saturday 19th) or Monday then do please buy a copy because it will feature an article promoting my campaign for improvements to Leicester’s hospitals. I will be posting up the progress of the campaign as it develops. If you’ve had a bad experience in a Leicester hospital and want to join a pressure group to ensure that changes are being made, then please let me know. The pressure group will be set up and run with the support of Sir Peter Soulsby MP.

My Radioactive Week

Once the Leicester Mercury have launched the campaign I’ll be posting up more details, and discussing in more depth, the issues that I’m most concerned about regarding our hospitals, but for now I’m preoccupied with a radioactive week. 

It all began with newspaper reports about Monday night’s massive solar flare. Apparently radioactive material will be blasting towards Earth sometime today or tomorrow. In 1989 a similar event knocked out a power station in Quebec. Let’s hope it doesn’t do anything too horrible this time. I must admit to being rather excited about the prospect of it sending the Northern Lights our way. That would be an extraordinary experience, to see the aurora borealis from our back garden. I love looking at colours in the sky, not fireworks. I can’t understand why people enjoy having gunpowder exploding above their heads, but show me a rainbow and I’m ooohing and aaahing like a drunken sheep.

I’ve always loved rainbows. I blogged about them here but rainbows now remind me of the other radioactive part of my week. On Tuesday Mum started her five days of radiotherapy. In the entrance to the treatment room there is a large picture featuring a rainbow. It’s in pastel colours and has a peaceful feel to it. I don’t suppose Mum has noticed it. She has other things on her mind but while I’m sitting and waiting for each radiotherapy session to be over I’m looking at that picture and hoping it holds a promise of better things to come... and I can’t help thinking that if radioactivity can knock out a power station then it can knock out my Mum’s tumour too.

Please join my campaign for improving hospital conditions in Leicester. Either comment below or email me at rosalind.kathryn @ Thanks.


Monday 14 February 2011

A new story idea...

... but will it appeal to a foreign ear?

Before I launch into my tirade about UK picture books, I’d like to thank everyone for all your kind messages and queries regarding the many health issues that we’ve been struggling with lately. I’ve included an update at the bottom of this post.

And now for my tirade... I love it when a new story idea appears. It’s hard to say where they come from and sometimes it’s best not to analyse it but somehow, amid all the worry over Mum, I have just completed a new children’s picture book. My critique group loved it. I love it. It’s about to be brave and venture into the big scary world of UK picture book editors. They may not love it as much as we do. This could possibly be because they view picture book manuscripts in terms of income potential. In other words, will it appeal to foreign publishers?

I’d like to think that my writing could be loved worldwide but I’m afraid that a lot of it contains humour and it would seem that humour does not travel well. To make matters worse, I recently read a report saying that a number of countries are now favouring home-grown writers over foreign ones. You can’t blame them but why can’t we do the same? I know that publishers have to make money and money is made from foreign sales but it would be refreshing if we were encouraged to write for UK kids in a style sympathetic to our humour, our interests and our culture and not have to worry about worldwide markets.

Health Issues Updates: 

I have made an official complaint to the Chief Executive of the Leicester NHS Trust regarding the negligence experienced by my mother while she was in the Leicester General Hospital. I have asked for changes to be made and for me to be kept informed of these changes. If you have a personal interest in this issue and would like me to keep you updated then please contact me here

 Mum is about to start five days of radiotherapy. It’s palliative. Each session will be for only two minutes but they’re hoping that this will be enough to shrink the tumour. We hope so too. 

Rod’s resistance is still very low even though it’s now six months since he had his stem cell transplant. In the last two weeks he’s picked up a nasty stomach bug and a chesty/sore throat bug. He’s hoping that very soon he’ll be well enough to potter in the garden. I hope so too! 

Important point: I’d like to add that over the last few years both Rod and Mum have received first class care and treatment from all the staff at the Leicester Royal Infirmary Oncology Department. They truly are an excellent team of professionals.

Friday 11 February 2011

Not another charity bag!

Every week we receive at least two charity bags through the letter box. They are (mostly) worthy causes, children’s charities, Cancer charities, Shelter, Age UK. I always try to contribute something but there have been so many of them lately that my wardrobe, never overly full at the best of times, is verging on austerity.

I stood there this morning, bag in hand, wardrobe doors open, and couldn’t find a single item that I didn’t really, really need... ok I couldn’t find a single item that I won’t possibly need some time in the future.

I moved on to bric-a-brac. They want videos. That’s good. We no longer have a video recorder and besides I did my back in the last time I tried to keep fit with Rosemary Conley. I have a twinge of guilt in case the recipient does their back in too but I suppose I can’t be held responsible for everybody’s well being.

All the videos are in the bag but I need to make just one more contribution or the charity van driver will think it was a waste of time stopping by our gate. I hold a glass paper weight in my hand. Do I really need this? I’m reminded of Diogenes who threw away his only possession, a drinking bowl, when he saw a young man drinking with cupped hands and realised that he could live without his bowl.

It’s a lovely paper weight, heavy glass with a rabbit’s face etched on one side. Yes, I can live without this paper weight. It’s deposited in the bag and the bag is placed by the front gate as per instructions.

The van pulls up, the man grabs the bag. I feel righteous. He throws the bag in through open van doors. Our double glazing masks all sounds but in my head I can hear a crash. I really liked that paper weight.


Sunday 6 February 2011

Green shoots

Mum is finally out of that dreadful Leicester General Hospital and in a lovely nursing home called Harley Grange. They are not only caring for mum and her illness, they are also tending to the infected bedsores that were caused by the absence of hospital care. To all those NHS people who follow my blog and have urged me to make a formal complaint about the hospital’s negligence, a strongly worded, two pages of A4 will be in the post tomorrow.

Rod succumbed to a nasty tummy bug last weekend and, as his resistance is so low due to the stem cell transplant, it’s taken the best part of the week for him to recover.

And on Monday I pulled something in my back and have spent the week fighting to get mum discharged, moving her and sorting and labelling her things, in a fugue of pain, paracetamol and codeine.

But Mum is now in a caring and safe environment, the sort of environment that I used to think was offered by an NHS hospital. Rod is on the mend and for the last few days has taken over the cooking, cleaning and general running of the house. My back is starting to ease and I’ve just taken a slow walk down the garden where there are green shoots starting to appear.