Thursday, 28 July 2011

Tomorrow I have a meeting with officials from the local NHS Trust. It is a meeting that I hope will help to improve the patient pathway for newly diagnosed Prostate Cancer patients at the Cumberland Infirmary. As I have a meeting in Preston on Wednesday, with the CEO of the Prostate Cancer Charity Owen Sharp, I am hoping that ultimately it will be an action plan that can be used to give guidelines to hospitals throughout the UK.
We must try and discover why the local NHS Trust quote that 95% of patients who are treated in Urology are happy with their care, and yet when Helen Kelly visited our support group, the figure was just 4%!!!

This is the action plan that would have satisfied me and other members of the local support group, had it been presented to us earlier this year…

1.    A notice will be displayed at reception stating that; ‘You will be sent a copy of all correspondence sent to your GP regarding your treatment, unless you specifically ask us not to send it to you.'

By doing this, it cuts out the possibility of the staff forgetting to ask the patient, and from feedback given at our support group, all our members would want to be kept informed.

2.     Mr Bashir apologised for not replying to Mr Sencier’s polite letter of grave concern. He explained that it was an oversight due to the pressure of his workload. He also apologised for not keeping Mr Sencier adequately informed about the progress of his case, causing unnecessary worry and concern.

When mistakes happen, a simple apology is usually enough, and this should become common practice at all levels.

3.     We are sorry that your records and scans were not available at your MDT meeting, and that nobody who was at that meeting was available to you, when you came for the feedback. We know why this happened and systems have been put in place to ensure that it cannot happen in the future.

Again, a simple apology and assurance would have been nice!

4.     Dr Sidek apologised for not introducing herself as the ‘Oncologist’ at your appointment. She now understands that a newly diagnosed cancer patient, on their first visit to the Radiology Department may need some guidance. This is now standard practice for all new patients.

Another apology and an explanation.

5.     After the complete failure of the PALS service in your case, a radical shake up has taken place, which includes closer monitoring and ‘mystery caller’ testing.

Why is PALS not tested for efficiency by ‘mystery callers’? It’s a vital service for when things go wrong and it should be tested.

6.     We are sorry that nobody at the hospital ever replied to an e-mail that you sent, but at the hospital we cannot reply to e-mails due to ‘unsecure networks’. We are also sorry that e-mail addresses are available to patients at the hospital because this does give the impression that they can use this as a form of communication. We also acknowledge that it would be a good idea to have an automated system which, when a patient does e-mail the hospital, a message is sent to them stating that ‘we can not reply’, rather than them thinking that someone is actually dealing with it!

This is 2011 and most hospitals in the country, and back street newsagents have e-mail. It goes a bit beyond belief that we have this system of confusion at Carlisle where patients can e-mail the hospital but cannot receive a reply, even to say that ‘we can’t reply’!

7.     We are sorry that you had to throw away the ‘help number’ that you were given, and now realise that the system we had in place was completely inadequate for purpose. There is now a modern voicemail system that can take almost unlimited messages. Also, realising the importance of ‘information’, especially in newly diagnosed cases, a very strict ‘pick up and answer’ system is now in place. We have backed this up by providing a list of other useful numbers in a simple easy to understand format. This not only includes your Consultant’s secretary & Urology Nurses, but also The Prostate Cancer Charity, Macmillan, The Local Support Group, PALS and as a last resort, if you think that the system is failing you, the Head of Governance.

Had I been able to talk to the Head of Governance or even knew of their existence, I could have contacted them when both my Consultant and PALS both failed to reply to me.

8.     Helen Kelly attended the local support group meeting on 1st February.  She wasn’t too surprised to get a friendly but ‘hostile’ reception from the 25 members present because she had been invited knowing that there were problems. Only one member present was happy with his ‘patient pathway’, so we realise that there is a serious problem. She has promised to feedback your concerns to the appropriate departments at the hospital and will send you a detailed account of her proposed actions.

In reality, it was a meeting for the sake of a meeting with no feedback ever given. What did she learn? Who did she feedback to? When & with what results?

I would again like to thank the hundreds of NHS staff, patients and members of the public for the relentless support I have received throughout this difficult time. Like you all, I just want a better hospital.

Someone asked if I was going to request a public appology tomorrow. 
It would be nice, however I would be very suprised if it happened. To do that, someone at the NHS Trust would first have to realise that they just might have been wrong in some way. That I wasn't some lunatic who just decided to make a load of placards and spend 2 hours marching up and down outside the hospital because nothing was wrong! It takes a very strong, well managed organisation to realise it's own shortcomings, and I think that the North Cumbria NHS Trust still see me as a 'problem', that they just want to bury!


  1. Good luck and best wishes Daniel from me as well as six of my friends.

  2. Anonymous28 July, 2011

    There's a most interesting article in today's Daily Telegraph - an article that might just apply, albeit indirectly, to the matter in hand. See


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