Casualty uncertainty ‘is the worst part of hospital stay’

UNCERTAINTY over waiting times in accident and emergency is the worst part of being an NHS Lothian patient, a substantial survey has revealed. More than half of those asked said they were not told how long they would have to remain in casualty before being discharged or moved to another ward.

Noisy wards at night, not being given help with transport after a hospital stay and the perennial issue of food quality also resulted in negative feedback from the city’s main hospitals.

But the patient survey, commissioned by the Scottish Government’s Better Together project, did provide some cheer for the health board.

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Almost everyone asked said they were treated with care by staff, that wards were clean and that they were able to keep their privacy and dignity intact.

Director of the Scotland Patients Association Dr Jean Turner said there was still room for improvement. She said: “Waiting around for transport when you are ill is very draining, and is almost always down to a lack of communication.

“Food is also a very important issue, as important as hygiene, and it’s disappointing they are still not getting this right.

“But it is encouraging to see the positive results on cleanliness and dignity.”

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The survey was sent to more than 4000 people who had stayed overnight at an NHS Lothian hospital.

Nearly half of those responded, crossing all ages and reasons for admission.

Satisfaction on hospital food dropped by three per cent from last year, meaning only 67 per cent of patients responded positively to their meals.

In casualty, only 46 per cent said they were told how long they would have to wait.

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The Edinburgh Royal Infirmary has the busiest A&E in the UK, and staff there are struggling with two major problems.

One is the stringent Holyrood target of seeing 98 per cent of patients within four hours, with the other being the sheer number of people who admit themselves with minor ailments that would be better dealt with elsewhere.

One senior staff member told the Evening News: “The most important thing is we do well in crucial areas like patient care and hygiene.

“Others like food and noise are bonuses, but we can’t beat ourselves up about them.”

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Pat Dawson, NHS Lothian’s associate nurse director, said: “We are pleased that this survey again shows that patients in Lothian are generally happy.

“More than eight out of 10 patients said they were satisfied with the overall experience and 94 per cent of those who responded felt that they had been treated with care.”

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