Wednesday 17 November 2010

Patient's Patience

If being ill teaches you anything, it teaches you patience.

You wait for tests to be scheduled, you wait for late appointments, you wait for a nurse or doctor to come with your meds, you wait to see if a treatment works, you wait for surgical dates, you wait for someone to bring you a  drink, you wait for drugs to work and you wait and you wait.

I'm a fairly impatient person at the best of times and I've often wondered if my lesson here on earth is to learn patients.

It's not unusual for me to sit for two or even three hours, staring into space, waiting for an overbooked consultant or for a porter to take me back to the ward. I don't really get bored any more, I learnt years ago to fall into a kind of daydream. The more you fret and stress, the longer the wait seems.

At around midday, the doctor came to see me at my bed and suggested that as I had to wait so long for an MRI, they would be willing to send me home for a few days. As long as I had the right painkillers and anti-sickness medication, I would be much more comfortable waiting in my own bed at home, than I would waiting here.

I would need to be discharged and that would mean getting enough of all my meds up from pharmacy to last me over the weekend. In true NHS style, no-one even thought to send the chart down until 3pm!!! When they did send it they forgot the accompanying letter, so that took pharmacy another hour or two to sort out. Then, when the prescription came up, they'd given me tablets instead of injections, so that took another hour or so to change, then they realised they hadn't included any needles or syringes - I had a bag full of injections and no way to administer them.

Now, its 7.45 and I've just got everything sorted out. 7.45pm!!

A patient feels almost permanent frustration, but agonisingly, we can't get cross or rude, however much we might want to take them by the arms and shake some sense into them. I'm not telling this story because it's remarkable in any way - it isn't, it happens to all patients, every day. I'm telling it in the hope that someone, somewhere thinks "Hey, yes, that's a silly system, let's change it"


  1. I've often thought the same. The Royal Oldham Hospital developed a system that partly addressed the problem. If the doc wanted you discharged you were immediately transferred to the discharge Lounge which was a ward with half a dozen beds plus seated accommodation. The advantage was the Ward sister's main aim was to get you home as quickly as possible and she developed relationships with the pharmacy, ambulance service porters etc. that enabled a more speedy discharge as they only had one ward to deal with for discharges. The main wards gained by freeing up beds straight away and not having to wait for the problems to be sorted as you describe.
    Patience is a virtue and you seem to have it in spades.
    My thoughts are with you.

  2. Well I'm glad to hear you're going home for a few days and can recognise what you say about waiting for prescriptions. It seems endless... no joined up thinking at all. Have a safe journey home and hope you feel better soon!

  3. Hi Sue, I trust you're enjoying time with your family, your presence will have restored their faith in human nature, anyway, mum's back.
    Did you get to see the TV programme, ' Can Gerry Robinson fix the NHS ?' It was an attempt by Gerry to identify the strategic and operational weaknesses in a hospital, come up with some solutions, and then implement them. I like the guy, and he comes over as the right sort of person to do the job, no political angle, or axe to grind....Of course, you may have seen it, but anyway, it was shewn,( Howard )in 2007 if you didn't. The programme did define and address some key operational issues, mainly communication related, but also fundamental efficiency failings...very similar to the topics raised by you, and others on here. From your experience recently, it would appear that Addenbrooks management didn't see the programme, perhaps, when you go back, you could refer them to it would certainly help them to crystallise a few behavioural opportunities.
    Are you allowed a wee dram, or a glass or two of bubbly now you're home, or is there an alcohol ban ? Take're valuable. :-)

  4. Yes I saw the prog with the management consultant. IIRC he identified that the critical facility around which all revolved was the operating theatre or treatment room. But the consultants only worked days, Monday to Friday, and thus the most expensive resource was only used one third of the time. This earth shattering discovery was shewn (Ken) to the only people who could change the system, the said consultants, and they didn't want to know.

  5. Sue,

    I have had MRIs They aint fun, and when the waiting is over, I hope it goes a - ok! :)

  6. Hi Sue,

    I finally got the pic thing sorted! Took me a while :)

  7. Inappropriate use of this site but clearly you Eoin of the short sleeves and I of the long are thus poles apart.

    I look in here every now and then from behind the sofa. It unfortunately takes me back to 1985 and I don't want to go there. Sue's reports tell me that nothing, nothing, has changed.

  8. Howard,

    I would not say polls apart. You are a good man! A really good man. Much loved by left right and centre. You probably have, the enviable title, of being the least disliked poster on UKPR. As it happens, for me you are at the very highest on my list. I have very many fond memories of your contributions.

    Anyway, I include my email and blog below. I hope to hear from you.

  9. Hi Sue, I do pop in regularly to see how things are and to read your brilliant writing,
    Hope this quiet time means you are enjoying quality time with kids and hubby and not in worse pain. Good luck when you go back in for the tests. Take care. X

  10. Not sure what is going on here, seem to be two of me now.... Saw the blog Eoin, hope you get back on ukpr!

  11. Sue,

    You will have to give us an update soon! I am starting to get a wee bit worried! Apoligies if you are well, and simply taking time to recover.

  12. Eoin:
    Me too! The downside,of a blog!

  13. Polling prediction for tonight with YouGov

    Blue 41%
    Red 39%
    Yellow 11%

  14. I feel like your mother waiting for you to come home safely!

    I hope that you are just taking the time to look after yourself and be with your nearest and dearest.

    Take good care

    Syzygy Sue x

  15. Hi Sue.....I guess that, were you able to, you would update your blog....I hope you summon up enough strength to post, soon. Your fan club awaits, I don't know if we help you, but you sure as hell help us. :-)

  16. Where are you Sue? I hope all is well. Some of us are getting a bit worried. :-(