Patients raise care concerns at Hinchingbrooke Hospital

Hinchingbrooke Hospital

Hinchingbrooke Hospital - Credit: Archant

A group of patients complained about sub-standard care on a Hinchingbrooke ward just days after a mother-of-two received an apology from the Huntingdon hospital’s chief executive for failings on the same ward that left her fearing for her life.

Julie Phelan, of Philip Gardens, St Neots, said she was desperate for help after a series of gaps in care on Juniper Ward, including call bells going unanswered and bedding not being changed.

Mrs Phelan, who has worked in the nursing profession for 13 years, was particularly fearful of a potentially fatal infection risk. “I seriously thought I could die in there,” she said.

She underwent routine surgery at Hinchingbrooke last month and was so pleased with her care that she wrote to The Hunts Post to share her gratitude with readers.

However, when she had to return on Friday, July 25, after developing complications, her experience could not have been more different. “I can only say hell would have been better,” she said.

While her biggest concern was an open wound, which was left with a temporary dressing despite assurances it would be properly dressed, she was dismayed by what she perceived as a general lack of care, such as pain relief being given several hours later than it should have been and water jugs remaining unfilled.

“I’m a nurse and I know how care should be,” she added. “If that had been my mum in there or someone without a family, that’s horrific.”

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Desperately needing help, Mrs Phelan called on her sister who complained to the Patient and Liaison Service (PALS), which responded immediately.

“They were concerned about the wound not being dressed properly but I stressed it was the tip of the iceberg,” she continued.

Mrs Phelan was also visited by Hinchingbrooke’s director of nursing Deirdre Fowler and chief executive Dr Hisham Abdel-Rahmen, who, she said, apologised.

But two days after being discharged after a 10-day stay, having been assured by the hospital’s management that action would be taken, last Wednesday (August 6) four patients complained, raising similar concerns about care.

Once again, call bells were not being answered and it was claimed 24 meals were returned to the hospital kitchens because no one had given them to patients.

A spokesman for Circle, the private firm which manages the hospital, said the two incidents were not linked and stressed there had been no medical threat to patients.

Ms Fowler, director of nursing, midwifery and quality at Hinchingbrooke, added: “I was saddened to hear of Mrs Phelan’s experience: this is not the standard we expect for our patients.

“We take all feedback very seriously, and having spoken with Mrs Phelan regarding her concerns at the time, we took immediate action to resolve the issues she encountered.

“Overall, Juniper ward, like the rest of Hinchingbrooke, has very good clinical outcomes.”

According to the hospital’s records, there have been four complaints from 675 patients in the past six months on the ward.

Healthwatch Cambridgeshire chief executive Sandie Shaw, while unable to comment on specific cases, said she would welcome feedback from patients on Hinchingbrooke, ahead of a Care Quality Commission inspection next month. “There will be 40 inspectors,” she said. “So no stone will be left unturned.”

INFORMATION: To share your experiences with Healthwatch Cambridgeshire, which can protect people’s anonymity, call 01480 420628 or email