Anger over wait to see district nurses

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Hospital bosses were today slammed by angry patients after being forced to wait hours to see a district nurse.

Changes were recently made to nursing shift patterns which have led to outpatients not being given specific appointment times.

This has meant some are having to wait at home between 9am to 9pm for the nurse to arrive causing problems for patients, many of them elderly.

One today told The Gazette: “It is chaos. We are having to stay in all day and then they turn up last thing at night.

“How many pensioners want to answer the door at 9pm in the middle of winter?”

Blackpool Hospital chiefs today “acknowledged” there had been “some short-term staffing difficulties” but said the new staffing arrangements would mean they could provide 24-hour cover.

All district nurse visits are prearranged with the patient, but specific times are only given for certain treatments which involve the administration of medicines.

Other visits, hospital bosses say, are prioritised, for example if a palliative patient needs immediate pain relief and allow “more timely” response to urgent GP requests.

But one south Fylde pensioner, whose husband regularly needs bandages changing, says the arrangements have created a wave of uncertainty.

She said: “I do not blame the nurses, they are telling us they are stretched way beyond capacity and cannot cope.

“It’s the not knowing which is really inconvenient.

“The other day I was told someone would be with my husband that day. At 8.40pm, I called up to see where the nurse was only to be told we were not on the list and would have to be seen the next day.

“I could not stay in all the next day, what are we supposed to do?

“Thankfully, there are the two of us here, but what if I was a patient on my own. Who in their 80s will want to open the door in the middle of winter at 9pm?

“It’s not on.”

While admitting there had been teething troubles with the new shift arrangements, Marie Thompson, Director of Nursing and Quality at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, believes the new set-up will be better in the long-term to provide care for outpatients in their own homes.

She said: “We are sorry to hear there have been some complaints.

“We always endeavour to visit patients in a timely manner and provide a safe and 
effective service.

“We have introduced an extended day shift pattern which has enabled us to provide a 24-hour nursing service within the area, removing the gaps in service that previously occurred early evening and early morning.

“The extended day will also provide patients with more effective continuity of care as they will be seen by members of the same team at each visit. Previously they were passed from a day to an evening service. We can also ensure we have staff with the right skills on duty at the right time of the day.”

However, Mrs Thompson added: “We acknowledge we have recently had some short-term staffing difficulties, but are delighted to assure patients we have recruited additional nurses and this will relieve some of the pressures felt in the south Fylde area.

“We will also ask staff to contact vulnerable patients to let them know if a visit falls into the early evening schedule so people know when to expect the district nurse.”

Estephanie Dunn, regional director of the Royal College of Nursing in the North West, said the union did have concerns.

She said: “We’re worried by changes to the staffing shift patterns and its impact on community services and patients. The situation will effect both quality and consistency of care. We’re speaking to our members locally and are in touch with the Trust.”