Daily Archives: July 17, 2013

Heart-attack patient Graham Taylor recovers in the garden of his Worcester home.

Heart-attack patient Graham Taylor recovers in the garden of his Worcester home.

I don’t usually blog twice in one day! But you have to read this from my friend and hospital volunteer Graham Taylor: freelance journalist; ranconteur; comedian; all round good egg, and now heart attack survivor. In a week when our NHS has taken such a battering, this reminds us that its importance remains undiminished.

“For a brief moment, the tears flowed as I realised the enormity of what the paramedic told me as I lay in considerable distress on the lounge floor.
“We think you’re having a heart attack, and we need to get you to A&E as quickly as possible,” said Chris, who along with his colleague Melanie had, in the brief few minutes since they answered the 999 call to my Norton, Worcester, home, eased the chest pain with morphine, thinned my blood with asprin and similar agents and confirmed my worst fears with a mobile ECG print-out.
From that moment on, my life truly was in their hands, and in those of all the wonderful doctors, nurses and other vital staff who, day-after-day, manage to somehow save one life after another at Worcestershire’s Royal Hospital.
The Friday before what was to become my ‘lost weekend’ had promised much, with friends from Dorset enjoying a leisurely breakfast after a wonderful two-day stay. Thank God they were in no rush to leave, for by 9.15am I was complaining of a tight chest, troubled breathing, pains down both arms and a fevered brow brought on by a growing sense of panic. It was they who summoned the ambulance, and by roughly 10.15am I was being wheeled into A&E where a waiting team of medics prepared me for an immediate procedure to unblock two arteries which would, in normal circumstances, be supplying blood to my heart.
Ten minutes later, and I had my first glimpse of cardiac consultant Helen Routledge, who with the help of a largely anonymous yet equally dedicated team, began the amazing process of getting my ‘dicky ticker’ working normally again. Flat on my back on the theatre table, still in pain but by now considerably reassured by an explanation of the repair process, Helen masterminded the introduction of stents into two arteries, which immediately eased the pressure and, at last, the discomfort. And all this performed in about 30 minutes, under local anaesthetic, with access through an artery in my wrist, while a roving camera relayed images of the process on to a screen immediately in line with the surgical team.
The relief at the removal of those two blockages was more or less instant, and my wonder when it was all over – with nothing but a small bee-sting mark on the wrist – knew no bounds. It’s a bloody miracle, I thought, and proceeded to lavish high praise on not just those involved, but on any member of the hospital staff, from porters, cleaning staff and volunteers, to pharmacists, nursing sisters, nurses and admin staff.

Recovering in the cardiac care unit, part of Laurel Suite, I reflected on the events of the past few hours, and on how the life-saving care I had received over that period contrasted with the tidal wave of negative publicity directed at the NHS in general, and at Worcestershire Royal Hospital in particular. As a local newspaper journalist over more years than I care to remember, it’s fair to say I have played my part in highlighting episodes at hospitals and health centres where care appears from time to time to have fallen well short of expectations. But while it is right to highlight scandals such as that at Stafford, personal experience of the NHS would suggest that such incidents are few and far between, with millions of people like myself being treated with care, compassion and respect at all times – and I speak as a bereaved husband with two daughters who almost six years ago lost his beloved partner of 30 years at the age of 54 to the ravages of breast cancer.

The treatment and care she received at Birmingham’s QE, and which I received at Worcester Royal, could not have been better, and I will forever give thanks that the NHS was there to offer ground-breaking treatment and aftercare when we needed it most. It’s my contention that in these days of mass consumerism and ‘people power’, our expectations of what a hospital can achieve and of the service we are entitled to may be far to high. OK, so you might not like the food, the attitude of the receptionist, the treatment you receive or the speed of discharge, but just remember, the primary aim of your NHS is to save and prolongue lives, not lay on a five-star hotel experience with waitress service and staff at your beck and call.

So come on, let’s all be a bit more realistic. And if you happen like myself to have had your life saved by the technology, skills and joined-up processes on offer at Worcestershire Royal Hospital, then you’re probably in the vast majority of the thousands of injured and suffering patients and visitors who pass through those doors every day of the year.”

“Pathway of death drugged and deprived patients of fluids” NOT FOR MY MOM

My contributors are getting faster and faster. I was so heartened by the email which came in this morning. It refers to the recent report by Baroness Neuberger about the Liverpool Care Pathway. The writer, who wishes to remain anonymous, shares her story and invites me to post it.

I am incensed by the withdrawal of the Liverpool Care Pathway and wanted to have a way to share my experience of it. There is no public way and the press have their own agenda so thank you for your blog.
My mom was on Laurel 3 at the Royal and was really poorly. She had suffered for a long time and the doctors and nurses said that she was palliative. They explained to me fully what this meant and hooked me up with a nurse who was part of the palliative care team. I can honestly say that they spent hours with my sister, myself and my mom- not just doing the medical things but also finding out about her and her life.
She was comfortable throughout all of this. Her morphine was given through a machine. She had water from a drip; and the nurses on the wards came and did all the things which I expect nurses to do. I am a retired nurse and in those days we used to call it TLC, making the patient comfortable, pain free and dignified as they met their end.
We noticed that mom was becoming a bit swollen and the nurse explained that she was not able to get rid of the water that was going into her. It was decided with us involved that we should stop the drip. We could still give her fluids on a sponge, which we were encouraged to do, and to make sure her mouth and tongue did not dry out.
Throughout all this, and they were some of the hardest days of my life, we saw the care and compassion of the nurses. Not a death pathway, just a way of treating mom with the dignity and compassion that she deserved at the end of a full life. And ask: “Will patients’ and relatives’ experience of end-of-life care be improved by the withdrawal of the LCP?” For me the jury is out.
I am sad that this pathway is ending. What will replace it? And whatever that report says, I can only give my own experience. Which is truly professional care in the time when we needed it most.

For this lady, the LCP was a tool for making her mother comfortable at the end of her life. I have seen other times, where as part of my job as Chaplain, the LCP has been used to great effect to help with patients coming to the end of their journey. That is not to say that there are not expamples of poor practice, possible because of under-resoucing or inadequate training, clearly there are. Baroness Neuberger is a respected person, and whilst I do not want to demur, I, too, can only post people’s honest opinions about treatment.

I suppose the question remains: “Will patient’s experience be better with the dismantling of the LCP?” For Baroness Neuberger the answer seems to be in the affirmative. For me the jury is out.