Reminding hospitals about patient care

Follow up and comments for the letter to the Chief Executive of Whiston NHS Trust

I sent my letter first class on 9th August, 2006:

PALS responded straight away, saying as I’d moved to another hospital there was nothing they could do.

St Helens and Knowsley Hospitals NHS Trust finally replied over a month later on 13th September saying they would look into the matter.

On Tuesday, 17th October – after yet another month has passed into the mists of time – I gave up waiting and chased it up myself. Essentially it was passed on to her assistant – and she passed it to her assistant and… Well, you get the picture I saw!

"You should receive a response from a primary care trust within 10 working days or from the chief executive of the NHS organisation concerned within 20 working days. You should be kept informed of progress if this is not going to happen."

Extract from ‘How to make a complaint about the NHS’
St. Helens and Knowsley Hospitals NHS Trust

One has to wonder if the NHS has a complaint dept to deal with complaints about them and, funnily enough, it seems they do, in the form of ICAS, amongst others!

Anyway, the main lady investigating my complaint is Mrs Shannon, Assistant Director of Operations. The delay is due to the number of people they had to talk to, exasperated by the fact that most of the replies and reports were so brief and flimsy the executive had to chase up more appropriate replies. Normally in this situation an advisory note is sent out, explaining the hold up. Ho hum!

Talking to the lady, Mrs Shannon was actually a nurse and a midwife (in the Royal) before taking up this post and was mortified at the catalogue of errors, omissions and disregard for patient care. When I pointed out I was allowed unlimited fruit juice and milk and – as a renal patient – given bananas with some meals it just hammered home the gross neglect. I didn’t monitor my potassium at the time until almost the last day, when I nurse commented that it was a little high (at 5.5).

Is that a problem?
Well, at 6.0 it can kill you…

Hammers it home rather a tad as in the first few days at the Royal a man was brought in with a potassium of 6.0 – and he died the same day. Personal tolerance and other factors come into it, but still, rather a scary thought, eh!

Smiley is shocked

I dread to think what it was before I was admitted – I was grey (literally) and lying on the floor shivering, shaking, sweating and falling in and out of consciousness one day. I’d been drinking litres of fresh fruit juice every day to combat the raging thirst. I was guzzling banana and coconut smoothies and similar delights like they were going out of fashion on the general basis if you are ill, eat more fruit and vegetables. Really my own doctor should have referred me to a dietician the moment she saw the blood results, and chased up the hospital, but she didn’t.

(Note: Fruit, Veg., nuts etcetera are loaded with potassium, some more than others. Nuts, bananas and especially star fruit* are all taboo for renal patients as your failing/failed kidneys can’t filter out the excess electrolytes. *(Star fruit acts as a neurotoxin and can be lethal))

I genuinely believe that (if I hadn’t had the good fortune that Dr Steiger was a renal doctor before specialising in neurology) Whiston would have insisted on waiting for the out-patient ultrasound in September before even considering me as an in-patient and that as a result, I’d have been dead before they acted…

Note that by September 5th my blood pressure was around 180/145 (and rising), resulting in literally blinding headaches and, combined with a blood urea of 21.2, left me vomiting to the point where I was retching so hard I was bringing up blood due to torn vessels in my throat. Add a week to this while they decide, hey, actually this person IS ill…

NHS Trust’s reply…

Now to wait the chief executives reply and statement…

And wait, and wait…

Several calls got me an apology (for the delay in replying) because Ann Marr passed it to her secretary to deal with, who passed it to her secretary who, for whatever reason, lost interest and didn’t bother chasing it up.

I’ll type up the FIVE-page apology later.


In retrospect there have been several gross mistakes while I’ve been a patient at Whiston, one of which left me partially disfigured when a plastic surgeon decided – without being asked – to practice cosmetic surgery on me instead of the straightforward rhinoplasty I was admitted for… (broken nose in lay terms). That was a long time ago and if it had happened in the current compensation culture I’d have sued for at least a 6 figure sum, plus the cost of corrective work. I don’t have a problem with the NHS as a whole but, it seems to me, Whiston Hospital has a deservedly bad reputation for ‘mistakes’, both administrative and medical/surgical.

Satire based on actual mistakes in the NHS:
I’m sure you’ll see the funny side, sir – it turns out the left testicle and right leg we amputated were the wrong ones, it should have been the other way round…


Independent Review

If you aren’t happy with the response to your complaint you can alsk the Healthcare Commission for an "Independent Review"

Healthcare Commission
Freepost NAT 18958
Complaints Investigation Team
M1 9XZ
Telephone: 0845 601 3012

Health Service Ombudsman

Look here if you aren’t happy with the hospitals reply and/or that of the independent review. Apparetly they are completely independent of the NHS and of the Government.

Millbank Tower
Telephone: 0845 015 4033

Looking elsewhere:

ICAS via Department of Health

Also your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

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