Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Casualty Experience

Last week I had the misfortune to visit the A&E department of my local hospital. It was a worrying experience, not just because of the nature of my symptoms, but I knew the hospital was in special measures and had suffered recent bad press.

As a former nurse I am always more critical as a patient, as I know what should happen ‘behind the scenes’ so to speak. So it was with some trepidation that I arrived in the department as a patient.

The initial reception was quite good, I was booked in straight away (it was about midnight and reasonably quiet) went directly to triage and in no time was sitting in the queue for an x-ray. At this stage of the proceedings I was relatively impressed.

However, after this great start, things went downhill somewhat. Despite there only being about half a dozen patients in the general waiting area, a couple of hours seemed to pass with only the odd person being called. Now I know from experience, there is also the trolley area to account for and Resus (resuscitation area) to staff, but usually there are nurses assigned to each area. A couple of ambulance drivers appeared to book in patients, who then seemed to walk out and join us in the general waiting area anyway. So I can’t understand the delay, especially as I observed several staff members just wandering aimlessly around. When I worked for a time in A&E, I never remember having time to amble, but was kept busy the whole shift.

All that said, when I was seen by a doctor, the service and attention I was given was very good. She examined me thoroughly and performed a few tests, the results of which I then had to wait for until a final diagnosis could be made. This involved another couple of hours waiting time.

Finally, with the results back, I was discharged with appropriate medication and advice, which has thankfully since enabled me to feel much better.

But that’s not the end of the story.

Getting out of the car park proved to be a bit of an ordeal. It’s one of those parking arrangements where you pay at a machine just before you leave, although I do believe this used to be free during certain overnight hours. Anyway, we attempted to put our money in the machine (£5 would you believe?), but it kept rejecting our coins. As it was we had to scrape around for the funds as parking charges are hardly the first thing on your mind when you rush off to casualty.

Finally a member of staff came and directed us to another machine further away (by this time I was really tired and still in pain, despite analgesia) and just wanted to get home. Unfortunately this machine didn’t like are coins either, so we had to locate help, enabling us to hand over our money to a real person to validate our ticket. I do think the whole system of hospital parking is atrocious as I’ve formerly blogged see here

As a final postscript to my visit, a few days afterwards I received a text asking me to rate my experience and state how likely I would be to recommend that particular A&E department to family and friends. What a ridiculous question! If you’re experiencing an emergency situation, you’re hardly likely to survey people you know, you’ll just head to the nearest place that will help. Although in a separate text I was given the freedom to say what I wanted about my visit – perhaps I should just send them the link to this blog!

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