Monthly Archives: July 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.

Break the Stereotype- See the Person: Frankie Cocozza, an MP, Ivy and Stan

Frankie Cocozza signs Charlie's T-Shirt

Frankie Cocozza signs Charlie’s T-Shirt

Frankie Cocozza hugs my daughter Suzy and likes her Fred Perry T-Shirt!

Frankie Cocozza hugs my daughter Suzy and likes her Fred Perry T-Shirt!

Sometimes I think my life is weird and it seems to go from the sublime to the ridiculous. So I thought I’d write about the last few days and the people I have met. Now we all have to make sense of the world as best we can; and I choose to do it by (in my best moments) treating everyone as a unique person. It is so easy to slip into stereotyping people- the pop star, the MP, the old lady etc. etc. etc. I try to avoid this, and it makes for interesting times. Here are some people where seeing beyond the stereotypes enriches everyone.

On Friday night I took part in a debate with Robin Walker MP. OK, MP’s are not flavour of the month. Seen as power hungry, agenda driven, expense laden, out of touch. But to hear Robin speak you couldn’t help but be impressed. Here is someone who is passionate about the NHS, wants to do his best, and lives by his late father’s mantra: “Efficiency with compassion.” Beyond the stereotype is someone who is giving himself to public service in a sacrificial way spending huge hours trying to make the community a better place.

On Saturdy morning, I was called into Worcester Royal. Ivy (not her real name) had died and, whilst the family had gone home, the said they would be comforted by some prayers for her. As I entered the room, I saw this frail lady who had passed onto another journey. So easy to see just this fraction of her life. But if we look beyond the stereotype, we see someone who has lived to a good age, has contributed to the common good, has produced children who are still making an impact on the world. Laughed and loved; faced challenges and trials some of which she overcame; and will be missed. The world is diminished because Ivy is no longer with us.

On Saturday evening I was called into Worcester Royal again. This time to Stan (not his real name) who was in his 80’s. He was facing some challenges. So easy to see the poorly old man in hospital. Yet Stan, not a religious man, wanted God’s help. “God came to my aid several times when I was in the War and I want him to help me again.” Here is a man who served his country, has lived a good life, has countless experiences which, if we could only listen, would give us fresh insight. We prayed together and on seeing him a day later he said what a difference that had made. But it had made a difference to me too as we laughed together and he shared some of the stories of his life.

On Sunday I went down to Brighton with my daughter Suzy who had done a first class job of manipulating Dad to get her way. She wanted to go to a charity day. The day was in aid of a young man who had died and had donated his organs( This selfless action has had an impact on others and had helped 6 people who would not be around today. And at this event, in a football stadium in Peacehaven, some of his friends had come together to raise money and remember Connor. One such friend was Frankie Cocozza. My impression of him previously (and this is where I failed in my aim of always trying to see the person) was of a jumped up little no talent oik (sorry Frankie) who got booted off the X-Factor. But seeing him on Sunday, with no airs and graces, happily having his photo taken with his fans and signing my duagters’ T shirts I changed my mind. He was a man who was helping support something worthwhile; supporting a community; and making a difference.

So don’t believe all that you read. See the person. Work hard to listen. And the most extraordinary things come come of that. By all means, keep all your stereotypes if you like, even stereotypes of the Chaplain, but your life won’t be as rich and you’ll miss out on so much.

Everyone, without exception, has been so caring

Cakes always prompt good news!

Cakes always prompt good news!

I recently ran a Blog Stand in the main entrance of Worcester hospital, with so much help from lovely staff, and met some wonderful people. Here is onl email which came, as a result of our event, from Michelle.

“I promised I would drop you a line after sampling one of your delicious cakes the other day on one of my many hospital visits.

I’m presently undergoing treatment for my second bout of breast cancer which involves many visits to the hospital. I must say that without exception, everyone that I have come into contact with has been absolutely amazing. It’s not the easiest news to deliver to someone but I have felt involved, informed and able to make choices about my treatment with the advice, guidance and expertise of the staff at the hospital.

Miss Bright Thomas has been an amazing consultant and breast care nurses, Helen, Linda, Liz and Tracey have always been there at the end of the phone or to arrange for me to visit when uncertainty arose. Reception staff at sorrel, Terri and Lesley are also amazing people-persons and I love to have a catch up when I am there. It’s quite a social – and certainly stops me looking at my visits as anything negative, quite the contrary!

It’s a shame that I can’t name everyone, but I would like to say that without exception, absolutely everyone has been chatty, friendly and helpful to me on my journey through Xray, phlebotomy, anaesthesia and surgery and more recently on the Rowan Suite in the chemo unit. Not forgetting the porters, cleaners, caterers and volunteers all of whom contribute to the wellbeing, hygiene and safety of us, the patients.

I think Worcester has an amazing hospital, full of wonderful caring people who choose to go into this line of work because they really do care about other people. My experience has been (and continues to be) extremely positive and I would like to say a huge thank you through you to all of these wonderful people. May they be blessed to continue to do what each and every one of them does best.

Kindest regards
Michelle Baird

We Remember You in Our Prayers


Whether you are a praying person or not, it’s good to be remembered for nice things. In a recent letter to me David and Joyce Burton said this:

“To the Chaplaincy,
Good News Stories.

We are very grateful for the wonderful expertise and great kindness which we received from the Staff at Worcester, Malvern and Kidderminster Hospitals.
We are receiving, in David’s case, treatment at the eye, cardiac and dermatology clinics.
Joyce has been attending the eye clinic for sixteen years and is now being treated for cancer by very kind and helpful staff in Haematology.
We appreciate and admire all that we receive from the staff at these clinics.
We remember the hospital staff in our prayers.
Yours very sincerely,

David and Joyce Burton”

I think this is wonderful. This lovely couple have received but are also giving back. I believe in prayer, but I also know the power of good thoughts and positive energy. And David and Joyce are only the tip of the iceberg.

So next time you get some hospital bashing, nurse bashing, doctor bashing, manager bashing, or whatever bashing you succumb to- then think of these and many others, sending out good vibes to us all in the Trust.

“A 65th Birthday I thought I would never see!” Thanking the angels.

"I thought I would not be celebrating my 65th Birthday"

“I thought I would not be celebrating my 65th Birthday”

It is easy to forget that the work that is done in the Trust makes a difference to peoples lives. On average, people live 12 years more now that before the birth of the NHS in 1948. Not all down to the NSH but a significant part of it is surely. And the work done here really can be a matter of life and death. I am so grateful for the following email. It says it all.

Hi all my name is Norma ,
and in June 2011 i was admitted to Worcester Royal Hospital for tests regarding a bowel problem I had. I was seen by consultants and had scans and blood tests and when the tests came back it was reported that there was a blockage in my bowel. I was admitted for surgery and after having an operation to remove the blockage it was tested and found to be cancerous. I then underwent a course of chemo at the Rowan Suite at Worcester Royal and after all my excellent treatment I am now in remission and back at work and feeling my old self once again. I just cannot thank all the consultants,and nursing staff enough for the excellent treatment that I received while in the the care of Worcester Royal Hospital. They really are true Angels…

I have recently celebrated my 65th Birthday,a birthday that I thought I would not celebrate, but with all the care and attention from everyone around me I can now go forward and carry on living life to the full..
best wishes to all at Worcester Royal Hospital.
Mrs Norma Gale.

Team Work and Free TV: Great Result at Wimbledon and the Trust

Good...but not as good a free TV for patients!

Good…but not as good a free TV for patients!

I was roped into a politcal event the other day. It was to celebrate the NHS at 65 but turned into a rant about the “Tory vermin.” Not really a great idea, and was more like being in the 1970’s when bosses were the enemy and the Unions ruled!

It’s not that world now! And I’ll show you how.

On Thursday 4th July I was shadowed in my rounds by Stephen Howarth, a non-executive Trust board member. We chatted and then went to Laurel 2, where, along with Stephen, I saw a couple of patients. There was one particular patient who wanted to watch Wimbledon. This is entirely possible as all bed spaces have a TV supplied by Hospedia, which patients pay for. However, this lady couldn’t pay; she had no local relatives to contact and bring some money in, and she was extremely depressed.

After chatting to her, Stephen picked this up. We had a word with Emma Welch, the sister on Laurel 2, and decided to do something about it. So what happened next?

Well 3 things.

1) The staff on the Ward has a whip-round and gathered some money, enough to pay for this patient to watch Wimbledon until it concluded.

2) I had a quiet chat with an anonymous friend, who agreed to switch on this lady’s TV for the duration of the tennis.

3) Stephen explains his actions in this email.

Stephen Howarth: Non-Executive Director who got the ball rolling

Stephen Howarth: Non-Executive Director who got the ball rolling

“David – you will remember that on our Scatter meeting the lady you saw in Laurel 2 was feeling pretty low and would have liked to have seen Wimbledon but felt she couldn’t afford the fee. The sister responded immediately and we were trying to find a way of helping out. Chris Tidman pressed a few buttons and we have a result.”

Chris Tidman: Finance Director, Pusher of Buttons and Flicker of Switches

Chris Tidman: Finance Director, Pusher of Buttons and Flicker of Switches

Later that day, Stephen forwarded another email to me. It contained this message.

Further to your conversation with [N] this morning, I am emailing to confirm Hospedia will be providing free TV across the Worcester and Redditch Hospitals on Sunday 7thJuly between 2 and 7pm for the Wimbledon Men’s final.

Further to this Worcester and Redditch will also be included within a 3 week free TV period for the patients. TV time will run between 10am and 2pm each day beginning Tuesday 9t hJuly. Once the TV period has finished patients will be asked if they would like to take part in a satisfaction survey. The results of this survey will be reported to the Trust once the trial has ended.

This is a great result.

If the ward staff hadn’t given some money this patient would not have seen the semis and the finals.

If Stephen hadn’t shadowed me, then he would not have picked up this ladies plight. And even then, he did not have to take it further; but because he did, all the patients benefitted beyond what was initially expected.

So it is not a case of them and us.

Just a question of making things known to those who flick switches and they, like us, will do their best!

So a great result at Wimbledon. A great result at the Trust. A great result for patients.