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Saturday, April 21, 2007

The trouble with Derriford Hospital

My mum (Giz) was in Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, overnight after falling and dislocating her shoulder. It's the third time this has happened. She doesn't appear frail; she walks a lot, has a healthy diet and maintains a big and immaculate garden, as well as being social secretary of a widows' organisation. But it seems that elderly ladies are more inclined to stumble and fall, and when they do, they hurt themselves.

The second time it happened, Giz was staying with us in London. She tripped in the front garden in the evening gloom. We took her to Whipps Cross, a hospital in danger of losing its A&E, and we were well impressed by the speed, and quality, of the care she received. She was seen within 5 minutes, given immediate pain relief, and her shoulder was put back very gently. The next day she was taking the sling off because the pain had gone.

Not so with her first and third times, both involving Derriford Hospital. Admitted late yesterday, she was given no pain relief despite asking several times. Eventually someone grudgingly offered gas and air (do they still use that?!) or Co-Codemol, which she has at home. Before it was given, the doctor attemped to put her shoulder back by waving her arms around until she screamed in pain. The damage he has done means her shoulder will now take longer to recover.

Then, before she left today, the staff "mislaid" her phone and handbag. She saw them ransacking bins searching. All the time the staff were laughing and joking and the ward was a filthy tip.

Derriford has a "fair" rating but I have always had a low opinion of it after my dad died there. He was in hospital for several weeks and I always believed the standard of care he received was poor. The problem is that the majority of people don't complain. A lot of our hospitals are worse than those in Third World countries: the MRSA statistics confirm that. Yet we somehow tolerate it. Why?

Of course I now have a niggling concern that the great care she received in Whipps Cross was because we were there with her. Maybe an elderly lady on her own is vulnerable and likely to be treated with disdain by hospital staff. The care the elderly receive is a big worry to me: so much is said about stupid girls starving themselves to size zero, yet many elderly people are forcibly starved and cruelly treated in unscrupulous residential homes. But it's not a fashionable cause and so it doesn't receive the Jamie Oliver spotlight treatment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So sorry that your mum is suffering - just wanted to say that my recent experience of GWR in Swindon is very similar - the neurology ward, mostly full of elderly people, (men and women together - which I found quite shocking - especially as some seemed unaware of personal decency and hygiene) was filthy, the staff harrassed, the patients often neglected and not very well treated. It deserves far more media attention than it gets!!!