My appointment on Tuesday 16th September was what I hoped was going to be the last in a “forced” relationship with The Countess of Chester hospital since June of this year.
When I say “forced”, I meant that my association with hospital wards, doctor’s clinics and surgical rooms has never happened in my 42 years before this June. Attending a hospital for any reason isn’t something I have ever wanted to do, or hope not to do again for along time.
That being said, the Countess of Chester or CoCH as it is known when you become patient isn’t overwhelming, isn’t frightening, but can be a bit intimidating and confusing if you are a hospital newbe.
Let’s go in reverse. Arriving yesterday afternoon, I was a regular and worked a well-worn path from the car park across to the main entrance. There is always someone in the entrance area there to direct you if you get lost. The hospital produces computer generated letters- and I understand why, however they don’t often tie up with what the patient sees. I had an outpatient appointment but found signs for outpatient 1, 2, 3 and 4. I made a guess and went to the nearest one and struck lucky.
The appointment was for the “DR ELDERLEY MEDICINE CONSULTANTS”, which I later found was the elderly clinic. Not really what I wanted to hear as a middle aged man and perhaps a computer error.
The reception at outpatients, clearly marked was also a bit of a punt with four desks wrapped around a corner each with a number above each one. I made another guess and hit the right desk where my details were taken and asked to take a seat. Again, later, after looking back at reception I saw a white board on the right which set out which clinic corresponded to which desk number to attend to. Great idea, but no one can see it and no one takes any notice of it. We are Brits and we just queue behind the person in front!
Outpatients can be intimidating. It was full of people at 4pm and very hot and there were a number of non audible tannoy announcements asking patients to go in different directions, interjected by nurses appearing from rooms and also calling patients. You have to have your wits about you to listen up and as the directional signage is totally hidden from the waiting area ask.
Great to see newspapers and a TV on as this tempered the anticipation before you were escorted off by a member of staff.
What I liked yesterday was explanation and this is something I wanted more of during my recent visits. Nurses and Doctors assume that the patient knows a lot about why they are in hospital, where they are and what is happening or not happening. This isn’t often the case. Communication is key and if this had been as abundant as it had been yesterday my other touchpoints with CoCH would have felt more comfortable.
Yesterday the nurse explained why I was having my weight, height, BP taken and Dr Webster who I saw was calm, clear and engaging as he ran through my history and gave advice or what to do and why. I came away with no further questions and feeling content.
I even didn’t feel I could moan about being sent up to Outpatients 3 for more “bloods” as he had explained why. In recent weeks, “bloods” seem to be the staple answer to any visit. Be admitted to a ward meant “bloods”, arriving in an ambulance meant “bloods”, even going to the well-stocked retail shop made you think they would want to take “bloods”.
The downsides yesterday was the general outpatient experience in the waiting area, the reception desk and then being asked to wait again in a very narrow corridor cul de sac with three other people for the doctor made you feel as if you were on top of each other.
This takes me right back to the beginning and the reason why communication is important. A relatively routine appointment at my GP surgery one Friday afternoon in June, very quickly became a number of hospital stays.
I have therefore been in and out of CoCH since June and applaud the hard work that the nursing staff and doctors do on a daily basis.
I have spent a few nights on AMU (which is later found was Acute Medical Unit) and one night on the stroke ward. Getting Information from staff is vitally important when you are new to all of this. CoCH, don’t assume the patient knows what you know and try and put yourself in their shoes.
I have attended clinics and had tests and again understanding why you are there, what is happening and when you will hear is also important.
I would never criticise the hard work the NHS staff of today put into their profession but I sometimes think, and am guilty of this myself , that you can easily become numb to what the patient feels and needs and doesn’t know whilst you go about your job.
I saw some sights during my visits, watched brave security staff protect staff from drunken patients ; seen single staff nurses juggle huge numbers of patients at one time and seen how A&E sisters manage beds in wards in over demand.
I also saw sensitive care for critically ill patients and genuine love of the staff that work at the hospital.
I also saw the result of underfunding and also could relate to the fact that some think the NHS is on the brink of collapse. All plausible and not specific to CoCH.
It is a new world to the non regular and takes some getting used to. The only way that your experience can be made easier is if you are in control and aware of what’s happening to you. No one likes being in hospital and all I wanted to do was to get out fast and get home.
I would always recommend going with someone else if you can as an outpatient and have a friend or relative close by when the doctor is giving advice. Quite often there is a lot to take in and you can’t digest all the information. There have been a few times when I have forgotten to ask the right questions or thought of something after the event.
- Was I looked after? Yes.
- Was I kept informed? Sometimes No.
- Would I go back? Well I wouldn’t have much of a choice, but would never feel worried about being a patient at CoCH.
- Could the experience have been better? Yes, but hopefully these blogs will help!