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Written by a patient
11th July 2020


The surgeons, Mr Arvinte and his assistant, the anaesthetist and physiotherapists were excellent — highly skilled and supportive. Meals were served with courtesy and almost all food was good, even though you often did not want it. But my time on the ward, almost 6 days, was devastating. There were 3 nursing sisters on duty at different times during these days, all very hard working, even running between jobs at times. That means they were under too much stress : their essential duties need to be stripped of tasks that others could and should be doing. Delegation to subordinates surely needs to be developed, after organised training and briefing for specific tasks.This would release higher grade staff for more specialised work at their pay grade. Meanwhile junior staff, in grey uniforms, did not seem to have enough to do. Some of these seemed simply employed to take blood pressure and note the readings from about 3:00 a.m. onward. One or two of these, not all, seemed miserable, unable to converse with patients as if those were more than just bodies in the beds. Training of these staff members to do more, less mechanical, tasks could well make them feel more valued, and thus happier in dealing with patients. One example is that, when I was determined to go home that day, I was told I had to wait until the sister removed my cannula, but the hard worked sister was in hectic employment with other issues. Then a quietly spoken, reassuring Indian nurse said, ‘I can do that for you’ and removed it without fuss or any pain at all. She was not a sister but was certainly skilled, I shall remember Annsu (spelling ?) with relief and respect. Why was a ward sister initially deemed necessary for that task? Another issue was caused by my low blood pressure. A junior kept nagging me to drink more water as a remedy. I did my best but couldn’t manage what was needed. I was continually ordered, with a frown, like a naughty child, to drink more water, with no understanding or encouragement, by someone about a quarter of my age and experience.Finally a drip quickly sorted the problem. The WORST most unendurable problem was the constant ringing of bells by patients needing help. It was constant and mind blowing. These bells can be converted to flashing lights fo those needing help. They destroy what little sleep patients are otherwise able to get Switching them to flashing lights, e. g. at midnight for 3 hours, is not good enough. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture used by interrogators internationally, and surely inhibits a patient’s recovery. A flashing light, together with nurses trained to check a set number of bays at regular intervals, would help. Different coloured lights could indicate differing patient needs, provoking a matching response. It could be argued that bells are needed to alert staff quickly to problems. That doesn’t work. Many psychological tests have shown that response times to repeated alarms diminish with the frequency of the same signal. Any frequent repetition, even if signalling a potential benefit, dulls the instinct to respond. People just switch off and continue with what they are doing until that is completed. That is why companies vary reward systems year on year; otherwise for example a new company car every year becomes the norm, expected, and resentment follows if that benefit is changed for something different. I saw this happen in a textbook reaction during my short 6 day stay. Bells were unwelcome intrusions, signalling something that could wait until staff were ready to respond. What was most wonderful when you got home ? Water, the ability to wash hands and face using flowing water. Wards can’t easily provide this for patients who can’t walk, though bringing a bowl of clean water, without being asked for, more than once a day would help. So would providing a clean cardboard bowl on each bed tray without a. patient having to ask for one, then waiting a long time before it is supplied. That alone would reduce the dreadful bell ringing a little. I have gone on too long. In brief, a patient isn’t called ‘a patient’ for nothing. But any measure which means that person is less likely to be reduced to a characterless, brainless dummy, must be welcomed.

Recommend
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Dignity/Respect
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Involvement
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Information
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Cleanliness
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Staff
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