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QA High Care Unit

QAHi there and welcome to A Bit Of A Rant with your host, me.

Today I’m going to be talking about the Surgical High Care Unit, also known as ward E4, a ward in the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, Portsmouth. And I’m going to be ranting. Maybe even raving. I’m always a little bit raving. But it’s mostly ranting today.

Now, you see, I’ve visited the Queen Alexandra Hospital (QA to its friends which is why I’ll be referring to it in full) quite a bit over the past few weeks. Don’t panic! It’s not me! My mum, however, has cancer and – to be brutally honest – the chemotherapy route has been tried and has failed and it is simply going to cut short her life sooner rather than later. We don’t like to think about such things but it’s true.

Recently, my mum needed an emergency operation; as a result of the cancer she developed an obstruction that gave her two options: ileostomy or ten days of agony followed by death. She took the former option and we were all glad of it. The operation went well and she recovered in wards E1 and then E2 at Queen Alexandra. We visited. It was nice. Lovely view, pleasant wards, helpful nurses and doctors; you couldn’t fault a thing. This was a good hopsital experience.

However, after getting discharged my mum developed a very painful pain (those painful pains are the worst pains) which we (her family and friends) diagnosed (because we’d been in a hospital recently and felt some of the nursey-doctory knowledge had oozed into our brain holes (I know all the medical terms)) as being probably sciataca. When her toes went black we figured that maybe a doctor might have another idea; he did.

Deep vein thrombosis was the culprit this time and a blood clot had formed in the back of my mum’s knee. She was in agony. We were concerned and a little annoyed that she hadn’t been put on blood thinners to prevent this happening after the surgery but then again we thought it had been sciataca so what would we know?

My mum was transferred to ward E4, the Surgical High Care Unit at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth.

Rant. Begins.

It’s a high care unit so – and tell me if you think otherwise – I was expecting care of the high variety. Care of the high variety was not forthcoming. The care was negligible, bordering on the coincidental to there being a member of the nursing profession present. The ward had an unpleasant feel to it; ten patients and five nurses and the distinct impression that the nurses would rather there were no patients at all to interrupt whatever pissy little thing they were far more busy with.

My mum spent the majority of one day crying and occasionally screaming in pain. The high care offered included a "stop crying or you’ll give yourself a headache" but did not include a check to see whether the morphine drip – that thing that’s supposed to ease that which my mum was in agony from – was working; it wasn’t. It took one of her friends to identify the dried-up drip. That’s not high care; that’s negligence. The blood oxygen monitor was not working either; apparently that wasn’t high on the check list. Functioning equipment in the high care unit? I don’t think they need that at Queen Alexandra Hospital!

When my dad was allowed in to visit my mum on the first day he discovered she was – in addition to crying in pain – lying in a very wet bed. It wasn’t her, in case you’re wondering. During one of the high care moments when some drip or another was being changed over (not the morphine of course) the tube, still attached to a fluid bag, was left open and in my mum’s bed. In her pain she didn’t notice that she was effectively lying in a pool. She has the excuse of the pain. The nurses providing the high care had no such excuse.

My mum has – I’ve mentioned – an ileostomy. This means she wears a bag now. Further, this means it fills up with waste. Further further, this means it needs changing when it fills. My mum was in pain – did I mention the pain my mum was in? – but aware enough to tell the nurses plenty of times when her bag was filling up. My mum was also in bed, on her side, in agony, barely able to move because of the numerous tubes going in and out of her. With one nurse for every two patients and this being a ward where the care was high or your money back you might imagine that there would be plenty of time for a nurse to change that bag. You might imagine that but you would be wrong to imagine that. So the bag filled and split.

And the nurse told my mum off.

And she did the same when it happened three more times. This is disgusting treatment. If Queen Alexandra’s E4 ward was also named The Shit Care Unit I could just about accept the quality of nursing received by my mum. But it isn’t and I can’t.

There were other little things and you really had to be on the ward to experience the whole horrible atmosphere there but I wouldn’t wish that particular experience on anyone. Queen Alexandra Hospital is a nice hospital and there are many good doctors and nurses there – I know quite a few personally – but the High Care Unit and its staff is a fucking disgrace and I’d be happy for everyone involved there to get the sack.

My mum is home right now, awaiting hordes of visitors – relatives from Ireland and America among them – and about to start some hormone treatment that we all hope will keep her with us for as long as possible; my brother’s wedding in August is the first milestone.

Rant. Ends.

Author: Mark

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  1. Oh Mark! This gave me hospital horror flashbacks 🙁

    I really hope your mum is improving now?

    To be honest similar things have happened to the mumborg, but because I was either too upset or stressed out or worried about leaving her in their care if I reported them, I never did anything about it.

    Luckily the good staff outweighed the bad, just, and that was enough at the time.

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  2. My mum’s better now that she’s at home; lots of pills to take and my dad has to inject her with blood thinning juice (technical term). We’ll be officially reporting the staff for future patients’ sake if for nothing else.

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  3. I am a dab hand at those injections, I had to pass a test on it. The test was practising on a orange, the mum seemed to think I enjoyed it too much? heh.

    Nowt like being at home to speed a recovery! Hope she will be tickety boo for the wedding?

    Good luck with the reportage!

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  4. 2 things:

    1. it occurred to me that, given this legally constitutes at least conspiracy to commit actual bodily harm, you have the legal right to citizen-arrest the nurses on the floor. having the police come to take them into custody could alarm the managers so much that they actually got out of their offices and started making noises at the "front-line" staff.
    or it could backfire on your mother as the mutual-arse-covering machine swings into action…

    2. something discovered about a decade ago but not well known, is that radiotherapy, if delivered at quarter-doses 4 times a day (vs full dose 1ce a day), has the same effect on the cancer but ~NO side-effects. maybe worth running the idea past her doctors?

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  5. Thanks Sal.

    The treatment’s been better since she’s had to return to hospital (severe dehydration; high potassium; close to cardiac arrest; about an hour from death; never dull around my mum) at least in terms of nurse-friendliness. Little things like a burst bag taking from 9am until 12pm to clean up on the ward and then a possibly-related-but-who-can-tell sickness causing my mum to vomit quite regularly which is natrually upsetting any attempt to stay hydrated don’t help though.

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  6. Hi Mark,
    Sorry to hear about the treatment of your Mum at QA. My father-in-law has just been transferred there from Norway (he fell ill whilst on holiday and following a complication with a ‘routine’ brain op, ended up in intensive care and on life support). He is now stable and improving and currently up on floor F, but we have been shocked at how understaffed they are!

    He is in an ‘acute’ ward where you would think there would always be someone around, but in the few days he has been there, i’ve been shocked at things happening with him and around him. On two occasions I have had to run to find a nurse after an old man opposite has got close to climbing/falling out of bed. My FIL arrived on Thursday as was not fed (he is beding tube fed) until yesterday!! When my partner asked why he hadn’t had anything they said it was because "he kept pulling out his tube"?! Surely that is not an excuse to starve someone?! They had previously said that he had not been that response, but then when they gave him something yesterday, they agreed he seemed to ‘perk up’ a bit?! Odd that?!

    Anyway, I empathise with you, coming from Norway, where they had at least one nurse with him 24/7 and then going to QA, where there is never a bugger around, has been a massive shock and you feel very nervous when you have to leave them…..

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  7. I am a student nurse at QA and have also worked previously at QA as a healthcare support worker. It makes me feel ill to hear what your mother went through, so I really hope you have written to the hospital and made a formal complaint as that will be the only way that anyone can take notice.
    Things need to change in the NHS. Unfortunately QA have a large mortgage to pay back and that hit the staff over the past year. Cutting staff means cutting patient care, which is unacceptable! Patients and staff do not deserve it. It’s not an ideal world, but I urge anyone to complain through the proper channels as it is the only way for the powers to take note. You may feel that nothing will get done but the more people complain the more they have to take note. Staff will not take it personally, and myself and my colleagues actually urged patients to complain.

    I hope your mother is doing well. And Katy, I hope your father made it to Phoenix rehab ward on F1 as when I had my placement there the staff were amazing!

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  8. i hope your mum is feeling better now and our thoughts are with you at this terrible time.

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  9. The shit care unit is exactly my feelings. My Father died last month post a nephrectomy for cancer. The care or lack of on so called surgical high care has left me ashamed of the NHS. He suffered agony from an undiagnosed perforated bowel. He knew he was dying, we knew he was dying, but for some strange reason the staff both nursing and medical could not comprehend this on this so called high dependancy unit. They even kept calling him by the wrong name even though we corrected them on every occasion. Eventually died 3 days later following emergency surgery. The only saving grace is that the staff on critical care were amazing. What a shame not all staff are as caring and expertise as those on this unit. Awaiting inquest but feel sure the facts will not emerge. As a nurse myself I cannot defend this level of poor care, lack of analgesia and ignorance of signs and symptoms of post surgical complications. A very sad experience of this so called super hospital.

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  10. It turns out I’m exactly 4 years late in reading this and am so sorry to hear your Mum had to go through this – however this sadly seems to be the norm when it comes to Queen Alexander. I’ve had my MIL, Best Friend and Niece all admitted in the past 3 years. MIL passed away there but was incurable so to be expected, however on arriving there one evening we too found her in a wet bed, covered in vomit and generally in a very poor condition; when this was mentioned to the nurses we were told they had been busy – this too was E4.
    Then my best friend; alas she also died but this was because it was cheaper for the hospital to try chemo and radiotherapy than it was to operate (we have since found out the op would have saved her life). Again she was on E4 and was treated abominably. She was left with an empty morphine drip for hours.
    This then brings me to my niece who is today back on the *High Care* unit. This is the same unit she was on 2 years ago screaming in agony after a bowel op to be told she needed to man up and was only given pain relief AFTER I told a nurse if she wasn’t given any there would be hell to pay. 2 days she was left in agony with them telling her she was being over-dramatic, to then find they had messed up her up and her bowel had in fact twisted and re-attached itself in the wrong place. Another emergency op ensued where she died twice and has just spend the past 2 years with double stoma bags because of their mistakes. You can only imagine how I am dreading visiting her there this evening.

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    • So it seems things haven’t improved in four years which is disappointing to say the least. I hope things improve for your niece.

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      • Am really distressed to hear things have not changed at surgical high care QA. It is now 2 years since my father died there under appalling circumstances with a perforated bowel post surgery.

        An inquest has taken place and following advise have sued the hospital using the nhs litigation authority. The evidence was all in the notes.

        Owned up to breach of duty and causation of death.
        Although a letter of apology and £30,000 compensation for my mother do not feel any lessons learnt. I might add this letter of apology after many denying anything wrong with my fathers care? why does it take solicitors for the truth to be told.

        My lessons from this experience are do not trust, question all the time and keep records of events. Recall notes when things go wrong and trust your instincts. Unfortunately do not feel my case made any difference to the hospital and lessons should have been learnt but no evidence they have.

        Unfortunately there are many happy stories of care at QA but when things go wrong for you and your family you cannot forgive. more openness and perhaps the duty of candour may help to change this.


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  11. Thy said i had bowl cancer ,then thy said sorry we maid a mastak two weeks later You have got edvanced cancer can you come in strat away for a Op remove anas rectum lower bowl put stoma in then 4or 5 nights taking down for a noth op on bowl Then giving MRSA witch took 5 month for op to heal and a year to get read of the MRSA .so thy saved my life What a Hospital CRAP

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