Hinchingbrooke - doctors good, but nurses...

WE frequently read letters and hear accounts from middle-aged people who are heart-broken at the way their elderly parents have been neglected or abused in Hinchingbrooke Hospital, most recently of a man who died while his buzzer was repeatedly ignored. I

WE frequently read letters and hear accounts from middle-aged people who are heart-broken at the way their elderly parents have been neglected or abused in Hinchingbrooke Hospital, most recently of a man who died while his buzzer was repeatedly ignored.

I am an elderly person who has been in both Hinchingbrooke and Addenbrooke's Hospitals many times for treatment for a degenerative condition that I have had all my life. Perhaps my personal account will add credence, if any were needed, to the heart-rending letter in The Hunts Post a few weeks ago.

Coming up to 80 years old, I am well-educated, quietly-spoken and not unduly demanding. However, it sometimes seems these are the very characteristics that cause problems to nursing staff.

There seem to me to be two distinct cultures in Hinchingbrooke Hospital. One of them is that of the doctors, both male and female, who are friendly, maintain eye contact as they greet the patient with a polite "good morning" and use one's name; then ask about one's condition and particularly about pain.


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They obviously know the value of kindness and warm relationships in the healing process. The patient feels better for the contact, even if there is not a lot that they can do.

The nurses, on the other hand, seem to be totally unaware of this. There are of course some good nurses, but unfortunately it is the bad ones that one remembers as one leaves hospital and talks to friends about one's experiences.

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These are the nurses who talk (shout) to each other over you as they make your bed, having ordered you to sit in the bedside chair, often in intense discomfort, especially if you have an arthritic spine.

They then go off with the bed stripped but not re-made and, when they do come back, they fail to put the wheeled table back with its glass and jug of water within reach. If the patient has been reading a book it will certainly disappear. It would only take two seconds for the nurse to wheel the table back, put the jug, glass and book within reach of the patient, with a quick smile before she leaves.

Patients and relations are often told by the nurses that they don't have time to talk to patients nowadays (one good nurse told me that some years ago with tears in her eyes). But what about those few bed-changing minutes? "How are you feeling today? Is there anything we can get you?" Unthinkable.

It would be helpful too if nurses could think sensitively about the physical condition and strength of their patients. I was once trapped (all five stones of me) under two heavy cotton blankets. I simply could not tolerate the weight of them. It took me about five minutes to ease the items away gradually from me onto the floor, after which I covered myself with my lightweight day clothes. No one inquired why I had spent the whole of my stay hidden under these inappropriate clothes. I was simply the odd old lady in the end bed.

It is this culture, this lack of understanding, that is difficult for really old people to cope with.

Some three or four years ago, the Government poured a great deal of money into the National Health Service. Almost immediately a whole new tranche (horrid political jargon) of bureaucratic organisation sprouted. Patients were invited to attend meetings (where their questions were avoided rather than answered) and questionnaires were sent out left, right and centre.

Was one extra nurse allocated to Magnolia Ward? Were training methods improved so then-young nurses developed social and inter-personal skills when they eventually came up to the wards?

L C WARREN

St Neots

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