Today is Fathers Day and what I would give to be able to telephone my dad and wish him a lovely day – something I did every year and took for granted. Sadly my dad died last year and I never got to be with him in time – to have that one last conversation with him. To tell him how much so many people loved him, to tell him what strength he was to me and to tell him simply that I loved him – but I know he knew that anyway.
This blog is a bit different from normal. It is straight from the heart and its one of those stories that left me and my family but more so my lovely dad badly let down by the system that I believe is one of the best in the world – but can show perhaps without the right communication how things can go so badly wrong.
I had a lovely Saturday afternoon, we had been celebrating a friends baby shower and there was lots of laughter and fun, the afternoon had ended and the clearing up underway. My daughter telephoned me to say that she had spoken to my dad (her beloved granddad) and he had commented that he felt unwell – he had been backwards and forwards to the doctors for some weeks with a chest infection and put on various different medications.
My dad asked my daughter to phone a doctor for him – this had alarm bells ringing, my dad would NEVER make a full and in all his life he had never ever phoned a doctor outside of surgery hours, and had never had a home visit. He was of the “old school” he never complained.
My daughter asked if I would phone and speak to him, she knew that I had a good understanding of how the out of hours worked and felt that I would be the best person to speak to someone.
Unfortunately I was not in the UK on this occasion and was phoning from another country. I telephoned my dad and it was pretty obvious he was very poorly he also was very confused – he asked if I could phone the doctor and his wishes were that no one called him as he felt he was not able to have a conversation with someone at this stage. He was confused and he was in pain. He sounded really poorly.
I have a brother and unfortunately we were unable to contact him – but we left a message.
At 17.30 I telephoned the out of hours service. I explained to the operator it was my dad’s wishes that I spoke to them, as my dad was too poorly to speak to anyone. I explained that he was confused in a lot of pain and had not passed urine since the day before. I gave a list of my dad’s medication to the operator. I offered my telephone number to the operator and he said as it was an international telephone number he was unable to take it – this concerned me as I was the point of contact – I offered it again and he again said that he was not able to take the number.
I gave every single bit of information that the operator would have needed to assess the call appropriately. I know if my dad had made that call he would have not given all the facts.
After speaking to the operator and all the details taken into consideration it was confirmed that my dad would need an ambulance. As the operator couldn’t take my telephone number he actually put me through directly in touch with the ambulance service. I explained the circumstances and my concerns that my dad was confused, along and in a lot of pain. They confirmed that an ambulance would be called.
The next hour was a nightmare – worried that I had no news – still no contact from my brother so I telephoned my dad house to find that he was still there and no ambulance had been. The only reassuring thing was my brother had just arrived so at least he had someone there with him.
Concerned that no ambulance had arrived I contacted the out of hours again. I was told that the ambulance had been cancelled – yes cancelled!
Concerned that Dad had been confused perhaps someone had phoned him and he might have told them not to bother – that is something dad might have done if he thought that he was causing a fuss – but speaking to my brother no one at Dad’s had phoned or no one had cancelled the ambulance.
My brother told me that he would take my dad straight away to A&E himself in the car.
Had my dad gone in an ambulance he would have gone straight through – but my brother had to find a car parking space, walk my poorly dad into A&E and wait until the drunks and people with colds were booked in before them – it took over half an hour waiting to be checked in – and as you can imagine a while before he was seen – my dad was finally admitted the doctors told my brother that they would keep him in for a few days.
Sadly my dad died the next evening.
When we got back to my dads house in the early house of the morning the answer machine was flashing – the message was received after 19.00 saying it was the ambulance service calling – and apologised for the delay in the ambulance and if anything has changed please call us back on 999 – thank you. I was confused at this stage to say the least.
I contacted and the ambulance on the Monday to find out what had happened – how my dad was sadly let down by the system. The gentleman dealing with the call was extremely helpful and he assured me he would look into it for me.
I then telephoned the out of hours and asked them why the ambulance had been called – to which I was told because of patient confidentiality I would have to get written permission from the patient before they could release any information. For goodness sake the patient was dead! How on earth was I suppose to do that? I did find that very upsetting. This took me a while to get sorted – there was every chance that they were not going to discuss this with me – but I got there after several stern words.
As you can imagine there was a lot of correspondence backwards and forwards – taking forever to get answers.
The out of hours was blaming the ambulance service for not prioritising the call appropriately and the ambulance was blaming the out of hours – it took a long time to finally find out what had happened. But we finally got to find out what had actually happened.
The out of hours said in their letter that the ambulance service categorisation process resulted in an inappropriate C2 response that on review they acknowledge should have been a C1 priority for a 20 minutes response. The ambulance service also stated this in their letter – but also followed it up with it was one of their busiest nights and went on back that up with figures on calls throughout that day.
As for the cancellation of the ambulance it was confirmed that the reason the call was cancelled was due to the fact that the operator had inaccurately quoted the wrong call number he quoted 3392 instead of 3329. As this point the demographic details should have been confirmed by both parties to ensure the correct call log was being looked at. In this case it did not happen. The call number given to the ambulance service actually related to another call transferred by the out of hours service. The call log that the ambulance service operator was looking at was told that this patient had in fact contacted the out of hours requesting the ambulance to be cancelled. So my dad’s ambulance was cancelled and the gentleman that phoned to cancel the ambulance more than likely still got a visit from the ambulance service.
So, errors all round – would it have saved my dad’s life if the ambulance had arrived – and within the 20 minutes target? We will never know but what was more upsetting is the fact that if my brother had not been able to get to him when he did, and I had not phoned back thinking he was being taken to hospital he would have been waiting for the ambulance and perhaps have collapsed at home when he was on his own, because my dad would not have complained or wanted to have been a nuisance in any way.
When talking to the out of hours service I did share my concerns that they had nor wanted to take my telephone number – the only point of contact they had. The woman who I was dealing with at the out of hours did say that from this incident they would be looking at reviewing their system and every call would have the facility to take a contact telephone number. For me this should have been such an easy process and should have been put in place right from the start.
For me if ever I took a call from a patient, or someone calling on behalf of a patient my first priority would always be to get a contact telephone number. To me this is basic communication.
I sadly still see on the news and read in the papers that this out of hours service that I dealt with are always in the news for all the wrong reasons. Why are they still getting it wrong?
So for my today Fathers Day it’s always a sad reminder that this beautiful man – my dad is no longer here.