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Planning Retirement Online

Beyond the Headlines

March 2012


By Jeanne DavisJeanne Davis

Each month our resident writer and commentator Jeanne Davis goes behind recent news stories to comment on various ideas and subjects that have special resonance for our age group.

Written in her usual thought provoking and entertaining style, we know you will enjoy this addition every month




By Jeanne Davis

Headlines: NHS FAILING TO OFFER BASIC CARE, REPORT CLAIMS. Patients denied pain relief, food, water and sanitation.

“He felt he was gasping for his life,” says Sheila about her 52-year-old husband’s hospital experience. He couldn’t breathe. He had pressed the emergency button. It took a full fifteen minutes before anyone responded.”

17 January, 2012. I am sitting in the A&E waiting room at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. I have been diagnosed with a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) while on holiday in South Africa. It is the day after my return to London. I have been referred here by my GP.

It’s gone well at first. I’ve been seen by the admitting nurse within 20 minutes and told to wait for the doctor to see me. It is now three hours later. What am I doing here I wonder Why did the GP refer me to the A&E? Why not directly to someone in the hospital?

I ponder coming back the next day. I am just about to leave, when fortunately, the swinging doors at the end of the room open and an orderly in green scrubs calls my name. The doctor will see me. It is 3:45 pm. He reads my GP’s letter. He does a fast scan. Images of a thrombus are seen.

4:00 PM. I am wheeled to the Acute Assessment Unit. I can walk but they say it’s best for someone to take me to the 4th floor so I won’t wander around looking for the Unit.

The unit is a bright sunlit ward. Two nurses in crisp blue uniforms greet me with a smile. There are six freshly made up beds. Would I like to lie down? I prefer to sit. on a bedside chair. The Unit doctor will see me soon for a further examination.

It’s 4:30. My low blood sugar time. Can I ask the nurse for a cup of tea? I gather up my courage. Yes, of course. Would you also like a sandwich? Tuna, egg? A yoghurt, juice? I settle happily with the food and my book. A book to read always helps when you wait.

The doctor arrives soon after. Thorough physical examination. Note to my GP: please follow up on heart murmur. Given an injection of Clexane, a powerful anti-coagulant. Home at 6:00.

18 January 10:00 am. Arrive at Unit. A repeat Ultra Sound Doppler has been scheduled. Chair sent for me to go down to Radiology. I don’t need the chair but apparently it was a good idea because I am placed second in the queue.

Ultrasound result confirms Right Leg DVT (common femoral). The doctor asks why did the Acute Unit request another ultra sound when it was clear from the ultra sound done in South Africa that this was the result. “Didn’t the Unit doctor trust the medical team in Johannesburg?” I suspect she was more miffed than she might have been. She was from South Africa.

Return to Acute Unit. Cup of tea offered graciously. Wait for doctor to assess ultra sound results and initiate Warfarin, an oral anti coagulant treatment. Wait for pharmacy team to arrive to counsel me on Warfarin use.

While waiting I notice that of the six beds, four are now in use. It seems as though these patients must have come in overnight. An elderly woman next to me is asking for tea. But she can’t hold the cup. A nurse gives her a straw. This doesn’t help. The nurse sits next to her and holds the cup helping her to take small sips. What do those headlines say about older people being ignored? I am chuffed to see the tender, helpful care she is receiving.

19 January—29 January
I am to arrive at the Acute Unit each morning for blood tests to check my blood level. I am at level 1.0. The target is 2.5. The nurses take the blood. I am relieved it is not one of the junior doctors I saw on a TV programme who tried eight times to locate the patient's vein without succeeding.

The blood level will be measured. and a doctor will call me in the evening at home to tell me the dosage of Warfarin to take.

The schedule did not vary for the next ten days. The doctor phoned each night, the blood was taken on time. I was telling all my friends about the incredibly efficient NHS treatment I was getting.

January 30 and ongoing for possibly the next six months

The blood level has reached the “desired therapeutic range.” I am now referred to the Outpatients Anti Coagulation Clinic. Here blood will be taken, agreeably from a prick in the thumb now, measured, and Warfarin dosage prescribed.

Once more the system works like clockwork. Though at first the roomful and corridor full of patients waiting for various tests looks as though it will be an all day affair. But I never wait more than 15 minutes for the blood test and then ten minutes for the doctor's verdict.

Leafing through the newsletter of the Chelsea Westminster Trust, I notice a story on Quality Awards winners. One of the winners is “The blood team” which “ has reduced patient waiting times for diagnostic blood tests from more than two hours in 2009 to less than 15 minutes .” Here I am with all the others attending the clinic enjoying the very welcome improvement to “the quality of patient care and the patient experience.”

Can we influence patient care?

What pleased me even more were the blue dispenser bottles attached to the walls next to all the lifts and in the corridors as I came in and out of the hospital and rode to every floor. Every two minutes a voice announced “Protect the patients. Gel your hands."

In 2005 I wrote a column for laterlife about the devastating MRSA hospital bug. How do you get it? What can you do about it? The Patients Association was urging visiting family, friends and staff to cleanse their hands to prevent the spread of infection. Bacteria thriving on the skin are easily transferred from one person to another.

Now seven years later I see these easy to use anti-infection dispensers. I hope they are in every hospital. You couldn’t miss them nor ignore the voice ordering you to "gel your hands."


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