This last weekend, we had a fun Sunday afternoon. My small son tripped and fell and managed to gash his head. When he came running towards me and I saw blood pouring from under his hand, covering the gash, I knew we probably needed to seek medical help. When I examined the cut, that was confirmed. It was big enough to be bleeding a lot (and heads bleed a lot, it looks very scary) and I knew it needed something to seal the wound.
We jumped in the car and headed to our local A&E.
Before you read on, I need to say this. I have worked for our NHS in this country. I have used it services. I am aware of the intense pressure on staff within the NHS and I generally think they do a good job in very challenging circumstances. Our NHS is free at the point of care, and means I can walk into the hospital and be seen and not worry about paying for it then and there. I have had two incidents in my life where I have felt saddened and disappointed by our NHS, after the birth of our daughter, when I felt that my care and the issues around her birth were not dealt with well, and this last weekend. I do support our NHS but when basic care is not provided then our NHS is letting us down. I feel like this is happening more and more often, and staff are being beaten down, and have lost the will to care, or are too tired to.
We arrived in A&E and had to wait, to be seen to sign in. My son and I are standing waiting. He has blood on his face, and pad held on his head. The receptionist is busy. Busy, having a chat with a paramedic about something not related to anything medical, or professional. We stood for about 5 minutes, then were called over. It was not acceptable to make us wait, whilst they had a social moment. We were signed in, and sent round to the Pediatric A&E waiting area. We only waited a few minutes and were seen by a nurse and triaged. She agreed with me, that his wound needed cleaning and probably some wound glue to seal it.
We were seen quickly. I will say that. We were then called back to see a doctor in a cubicle. She asked me a whole range of questions, which I had already answered with the triage nurse, and then some more. She wanted to know how many children he had been playing with, their ages, what adults had been present, if he had been pushed, and why I hadn’t been right there when it happened (to be clear, he was playing with friends in a play area, I was a few feet away. He tripped whilst running and hit a pole on a play area, it was a total accident, no one was at fault, it was one of those “things” that you can’t predict or see coming. No one was to blame) and then she gave him a thorough physical exam before she looked at his head.
Up and til then, I was fine with what was happening. As an ex nurse I know there are procedures in place, and I know medical staff have to make sure they have all information needed to treat a child, and to make sure they are looking out for their well being and safety. I am cool with that.
Then she decided his wound needed glue to seal it. She cleaned it, and she was pretty vigorous. If I said her bedside manner was brisk, I am being polite. She was abrupt and didn’t explain what was happening to my rather concerned little boy, lying on a bed, not knowing what was going on. I had to keep him calm, and explain, to help him.
She then attempted to glue his wound. It was a clean cut, and simply needed to be sealed shut, to allow it to heal in a way that would minimize scarring. There is a knack to this, and I have done it myself, before. She literally made a total mess of what was a simple procedure, and declared it wasn’t working. I asked her if she wanted me to help, and that I could try, because watching her dig around with the glue applicator in my son’s wound, was annoying me and hurting him. She told me that she thought it would need suturing, and that she would get a kit. She called a colleague. He came over and they looked at his wound and he also attempted to glue the edges closed. After the third attempt, he succeeded and the wound was sealed. He then put some steri strips on the wound, and walked away. The other doctor had also walked away at this point. I went to the desk and asked if we could leave. No one really paid any attention to us and we were vaguely told “yes, you can go”. The doctor who had initially seen us, I heard complaining about the fact that she needed to leave, and that her shift was ended. She also had struggled to find the equipmetn she needed to treat my son and it was clear she was agency staff pulled into cover a shift.
I was not given any information on wound care, what to look for because he had had a head injury or any follow up advice. The staff were too busy talking about the Royal Wedding that had happened the previous day. We left. I was not impressed.
We had to then return to the hospital an hour later, because the wound on his head was not sealed properly and was bleeding. We again were seen, and a nurse casually put a bandage over the wound and told me “come back if you are worried” and that was that.
Three days post the injury and I have removed the bandage to look at the wound and see if it’s healing ok. They have made a thorough mess of what should have been a simple job, to glue a wound properly. The wound is not sealed at one end so is going to heal in a way that means he will probably have a fairly bad scar. On his face, visible.
To be fair, it wasn’t a major or life threatening injury, and I AM an ex nurse so I do have some medical knowledge to be able to care for him, but they didn’t know that. The standard of care, and the way we were basically shunted in and out, and the fact that my son will have a scar that may need further treatment, is very disappointing. It’s the firs time I have come out of a service provided by our NHS in a long time feeling frustrated and sad.
To me, it’s an indicator of how poorly our NHS is doing. The doctor was bank staff, being paid a lot more than usual, to cover a shift. Keen to go home and not have to deal with patients. She wasn’t trained in pediatrics and didn’t really have the people skills to work with children and families. She left me feeling like we had received sub standard care.
Our NHS is struggling. I know. The staff work hard, mostly, I know. But as an ex nurse with an expectation of basic levels of care and medical input, I was left disappointed this weekend. If they can’t get the basics right, it’s not a good sign.
When you put your child’s care into the hands of medical professionals, we are giving them a great responsibility. I have always been very optimistic about our NHS and that it would be ok, and would survive and still provide great care. Something in my gut tells me that this is not the case.
I am disappointed, and my kid now has a scar that he will live with for life. It’s sad all round really.
*I will be making a complaint to the local NHS Services, so this can be deal with, it isn’t a major health concern but I do feel that if our care was substandard then we probably aren’t the only ones. I have left some details out, for that purpose*