Tuesday’s Lynn News carried the latest performance results from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and, although they actually relate to the year up to March 2015, they make for extremely worrying reading. ‘Never events’ are basically occurrences in a hospital that should never happen. These events are the kinds of things that are the stuff of nightmares. Wrong body parts operated on, wrong chemicals injected into you, incorrect amputations, items left inside you after surgery…really awful situations! Well the QEH managed to have 6 of these in 12 months and obviously the hospital management was forced to comment with the standard anodyne and carefully-worded state- ment. Dr Beverly Watson, the medical director, declared their ‘disappointment’ and made the usual promises about future improvements and their ongoing pressure on staff to ‘fess up’ when they make mistakes with your treatment. The inference being that not all medical cock-ups are reported to the bosses…which is even more worrying.
Having recently had need to attend The Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s A&E department for a minor procedure one evening I was amazed to see 8 ambulances gathering outside the doors with their sick cargoes marooned inside as they waited for staff to find them a bed. I made my way past and into the reception area where my details were double-checked as quickly as possible although it became apparent that their records were literally 20 years out of date. Having got over this minor glitch I was soon installed in the warm to await the attention of a nurse. My fellow patients were all coughing and groaning and although they were obviously in some discomfort we didn’t all look like we were going to peg out any minute…which was just as well as we were all destined to wait some considerable time before being ‘triaged’.
A nurse called me and an hour later a doctor was found to fix my little problem and I was ushered out with a prescription…grateful and relieved.
So here is my concern. All three medics that attended to me were from overseas. All three spoke with accents so strong that I had, with all three, to request a repeat of their instruction or requests because I simply could not understand. I could not fault the treatment BUT if I had not requested clarification in terms of the details of what was happening or what I had to do with my prescription I could easily have been bundled out into the night at a loss to know precisely what my condition was. Luckily, my very minor problem wasn’t hard to sort but I can totally see how this tiny example of communication breakdown could contribute to one of Doctor Watson’s disappointing ‘never events’. Clear and competent verbal interactions are, in my experience, an area that needs serious review and until her staff are able to easily and accurately converse with us and each other I expect the much-feared ‘never events’ will continue to be a potential danger for patients here.