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Nurses, Hospitals, Old People and the Rest

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I listened with interest to the headlines on Friday about nurses spending time every hour with patients in hospital. Firstly because stories about the NHS always interest me. Secondly because my Dad and I had had exactly the same conversation only the day before...on an understaffed hospital ward.

He was admitted on 2 January via A and E. He is 88 and had an horrendous cold all over Christmas and on the morning of the 2 January he felt like he couldn't breathe. My Mum called the ambulance and my brothers and I all went to meet Dad there.

The whole experience has been quite unnerving. In A and E we were seen by a doctor who was an agency doctor. He was handwriting everything that we said on a report and struggled to understand. He directed all the questions to me instead of my Dad - my Dad may be old but he is also very intelligent - he can speak, understand and can answer questions for himself.

He also has Parkinsons Disease and needs regular medication for this - as well as 15 other kinds of tablets! He took in his repeat prescription and the doctor wrote down everything from it - we were told not to let him have any of the medication at this stage because the agency doctor didn't know the rules and he would find out.

Several hours after he was first admitted we were still there - a couple of people had spoken to us but he was also an agency nurse. I heard one consultant ask a man in the ward who he was because he had no badge and she hadn't seen him before.

There seemed to be no sense of urgency or organisation about the place.

At 3pm, the doctor had still not let Dad take his medication and he had a Parkinsons attack which isn't very pleasant. The Agency Nurse I talked about earlier came over and let Dad take a pill . Still no news from the doctor. The nurse told us that there was currently an 8 hour wait for the bed. However, it wasn't as bad as that and soon after the attack at 5pm , my Dad was taken to the ward by a porter and a healthcare assistant.

They let Dad get off the trolley by himself without helping him and he clumsily fell onto the bed. I wasn't impressed.

But I was impressed by a nurse who came over straightaway and booked Dad into the ward, helped him sort the bed out and got him a cup of tea - we had been offered nothing since arriving at A and E before nine o clock that morning.

He seemed happy in that ward and I think he was well looked after in there. I think as it was an assessment unit it has regular staff and many of them. I was a little worried that this nurse wrote down details of his medication on another piece of paper - but if thats the way they do it then what can you do - but this was obviously a repetition of something a highly paid doctor had already done.

After two days, my father was moved to another ward - and this is where the relevance to David Cameron's latest idea comes in.

My Dad is an old man with Parkinsons Disease, COPD, and a host of other things wrong with him. But he has spirit. And intelligence. And he is fun. He has survived a couple of heart attacks and bowel cancer - I am convinced that it is his spirt that gets him through. He is a huge support to me and I don't know what I would do without him.

So - when I went to visit him on Wednesday and he pulled the curtains round and started crying I obviously feel a great concern.

He told me how awful it was in the hospital. How no-one told him anything. How the man in the bed opposite swore at the nurses and shouted in the night. How the food was awful and he was only allowed certain things but he didn't know why. How he had felt breathless and scared the previous evening and asked for help and the nurse went to get someone and never came back. How he tried to get up to get help and fell - three nurses couldn't get him up - at this point you should no that he is just over five foot and not heavier than nine stone - so they gave him a jab and finally put him back to bed in the trousers he had been wearing all day - not even changed him into his pyjamas when he was rested. He told me that his dignity had walked out of the door as he walked in.

How do you deal with that? I looked around me and what did I see? No-one to ask, no-one to talk to.

The man who Dad referred to was talking to two physiotherapists and causing a fuss. He was saying that he would co-operate with them if they took him for a fag. They said they couldn't take him and they would ask matron. Then he asked me to get him a hot chocolate. Then Matron came and she did take him for a fag...he commanded the attention of everyone while other patients had nothing.

As I had come into the ward, I had seen a girl I knew from school on reception. So I went to see her. She got a staff nurse to come to see me. He was lovely to Dad and made him feel a bit better. When he finished his shift he introduced the staff nurse who took over and she arranged for me to go in the next day to see the consultant. But had I not seen a girl who I knew , this would not have happened and I don't think that should be the case.

The next day came and there was yet a different lot of staff on and although they said they would ring me when the consultant came , I wasnt convinced. So I went straight to the hospital for nine o clock. A member of staff let me in without question even though it was not visiting time and I sat patiently and waited...and waited...After about two hours the ward clerk I had seen before came to me and asked if everything was all right. I told her why I was there...she told me that the consultant Dad was under was in clinic and so would not be in anyway that day! I was furious - but she got someone else to see me who promised to speak to the consultant and ring me which he did.

But my point is this - there are not enough staff on the wards to deal with the patients as it is. Information is dealt with in a disorganised and inefficient way. My Dad's medication was written down four times by different people during his stay on manual records that could easily be lost or errors made.

The staff on wards are not consistent. Agency workers come and go. My Dad's Parkinsons medication was locked in a cabinet by one nurse who went off with the keys and no-one knew who it was or where she was - he is now home and his medication remains locked in that cabinet still.

The nurses deal with those who shout loudest and have no time for those who don't - I am sure that they don't want it to be like this - but it is how it is.

Yet a chat with someone on an hourly basis would do so much good....Mr Cameron is correct in that point.

But they cannot do this with the resources that are in place now. And with further cuts to come, he should think carefully before he speaks.

I love sport and I love watching the Olympics but it seems ludicrous to me that we as a country are spending so much money on hosting these games when the NHS is in such a state and a patient on a hospital ward can go hours without seeing a soul.

Nurses do a great job, but there are not enough of them and they have to much to do.

They are labelled the caring profession, yet they don't have time to care.

So Mr Cameron - you can dress it up all you like. But saying that nurses will chat with patients on the hour every hour is like me saying that I am going to win the lottery on Wednesday...it's just not going to happen.