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I'm Jane McIntyre, a voiceover and writer, formerly an award-winning BBC radio newsreader and producer. My blog covers life, love and loss; travel, coffee and chocolate; with some heartfelt pieces in the mix about my late dad, who had dementia. Just a click away, I'm half of the team behind - two empty nesters who whizzed round the world in 57 days.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Hospital consultations.Who hears?

Just back from getting some test results at the hospital. They were good this time. I`m lucky. And very, very thankful to the medical and nursing teams who spotted a problem two years ago, and treated it so effectively.

All the hospital staff I`ve met along the way have been professional, courteous, kind and compassionate. I can`t fault them.

So can I mention two things I spotted today which could really do with a re-think? They`re things which are happening every day, because, I guess, they`ve always been done that way. But they concern two major issues: patient confidentiality, and patient dignity.

I`ll deal with the dignity thing first.

OK--they were mammogram results I was getting today.I`ll have them every year now because I had a high grade, but luckily still pre-cancerous condition called DCIS in one breast two years ago. It meant I had to have surgery, then radiotherapy for three weeks to zap it.

Today, like last year, was an appointment to see my surgeon for the results, and an examination. The clinic was busy but brisk, and I didn`t have to wait long for my turn. After being ushered in to the consultation room, the charming, efficient nursing assistant asked me to undress to the waist, and lie down on the couch to wait for the doctor--with a paper sheet to cover me.

Ideally, you`d meet the doctor at his desk, fully clothed, discuss your results or treatment, then whip your top off behind the screens and get checked over. But that would take longer. The clinics are busy.

So I lay down, for a second, before remembering feeling really awkward last year, greeting my surgeon *while lying down* .This wasn`t a ward. I wasn`t sick. So I sat up with a jolt, grabbed my paper sheet and wrapped it round me, and stayed seated on the edge of the couch. It meant when the doctor swept in, I could greet him eye to eye, modesty sheet in place, and even shake his hand. (Yes, without the paper sheet falling off). Then lie down again and be examined. Silly? Trivial? It made me feel more of a person than a patient on a conveyor belt. So for felt important.

The other thing`s more serious. Because in the few minutes I waited for my doctor, I could hear almost every word of the consultation in the room next door. Without even trying. I could repeat big chunks of the conversation to you now, but I won`t--because it was (like most hospital conversations...) personal, delicate and actually quite upsetting.

I know this often happens when you`re lying in a hospital ward with just a curtain between you and the next bed. But these rooms had closed doors and walls between them. And that would have been bad enough, but by chance, my consultation, and the one of the patient next door, ended at precisely the same time. We both left our respective rooms simultaneously. We didn`t recognise each other, thank goodness, because by that stage, I knew too much. And now I`m wondering if my previous consultations have been overheard by people in the room next door, too.

Sorry if they appear to be minor observations in the great scheme of things. This is a hospital where the staff are working incredibly well. But frankly, the soundproofing isn`t. Surely, the preservation of some dignity in a delicate situation, and also, being confident that your consultation is completely private...are almost as important as the treatment itself? What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. Excellent, brave, honest and enlightening post. Well done to you.