Agony patient to go to watchdog

A RETIRED teacher from Yorkshire, who claimed he was told to leave the Borders General Hospital after being refused treatment for a dental abscess, is to take his complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

Phil Scott, who developed the painful condition while on a golfing holiday in Galashiels, says he is “very unhappy” with the explanation he has received from Calum Campbell, chief executive of NHS Borders, after an internal probe.

Mr Scott presented himself at the A&E department of the BGH at 6.30pm on Monday, May 9, having become concerned that one side of his face was badly swollen and he was in “excruciating pain”.

He alleged he was told by a receptionist that no dentist was available at that time and that he would have to telephone NHS 24, despite insisting that it was not dental treatment, but an antibiotic to address the infection, that he required.

When he called NHS 24 he was told he would have to contact the English out-of-hours service NHS Direct because he was not registered with a doctor in Scotland.

Mr Scott’s account continued: “The person I spoke to expressed incredulity that neither the BGH nor NHS 24 could help and I was told to ring NHS 24 back and explain that they had to take my details.

“I did so and was asked a number of questions by a dental care representative who was concerned about the infection reaching my eye. After being put on hold, I was told to return to A&E where they would now help me.

“I was asked to go to the waiting room and, after some time, the receptionist told me the doctor would not see me and had actually said to her: ‘For him [the doctor] to treat me would be like a plumber doing your electrics’.

“She added that the NHS 24 dental representative should not have told me to go to the hospital. I reminded her I was already in the hospital and that she herself had told me to ring NHS 24.

“She remained adamant I should not be seen and I was asked to leave the hospital and told someone from NHS 24 would call me on my mobile phone. I never got any call back and left the hospital in extreme pain with an increasing infection.”

Back in Galashiels, Mr Scott bought some supermarket painkillers and the following day contacted his dentist in Yorkshire asking him to have a prescription for antibiotics ready to collect when he returned on Wednesday.

He said his face swelled “to alarming proportions” and he was badly dehyrdated by the time he got home.

“The hospital staff seemed uncaring and unconcerned about my situation and were happy to let me suffer,” said Mr Scott

Having lodged a complaint, he was told the matter was being investigated and he would get a response within 21 working days.

In fact, on the 22nd working day, Mr Scott received a letter from Mr Campbell, announcing the investigation was complete and his response was based on the comments and advice of senior BGH staff and Michelle Jamieson, associate director of nursing with NHS 24.

Mr Campbell stated: “I am sorry you had a negative experience when you attended the emergency department at the BGH. I would like to offer my sincere apologies for any frustration and discomfort this caused you and I hope your dental health has improved.

“During the out of hours period, there are no dentists on duty and therefore the receptionist advised you to contact NHS 24 where a trained dental nurse would assess your symptoms.

“With regard to your initial call to NHS 24, their [NHS 24’s] investigation has confirmed ...the call handler advised you to contact NHS Direct. Ms Jamieson has asked that I pass on her full apology as this should not have happened. In order to ensure this does not happen again, NHS 24 senior clinical staff have undertaken a review with the call handler to reiterate the importance of appropriately progressing calls.”

Alluding to Mr Scott’s later telephone conversation with the NHS 24 dental nurse adviser, Mr Campbell confirmed that, after a discussion with the staff nurse, the adviser had told him to attend the BGH emergency department where he would be seen.

Mr Campbell wrote: “The staff nurse discussed your case with the duty doctor and it was agreed she would triage you (which would include taking your temperature, blood pressure and pulse) and would then arrange for you to see a doctor if appropriate. However, as the information you gave when you returned to the emergency department seemed to differ from that recorded by NHS 24, the staff nurse contacted NHS 24 to clarify this and was advised that NHS 24 would contact you on your mobile phone.

“The staff nurse discussed this with you and explained NHS 24 would contact you on your mobile phone and that, for safety reasons, when the call came through you would need to take it outside. I am sorry this seems to have led you to believe you were being asked to leave the hospital as this was not her intention.

“NHS 24 then contacted the staff nurse who confirmed you would be seen at the emergency department. As you had been referred to the emergency department, NHS 24 had no requirement at this point to contact you again. Unfortunately, the staff nurse was then called upon to assist a very sick patient and was delayed in returning to speak to you. Regrettably, when she did ... you had already left the building.

“I am grateful to you for bringing this matter to my attention as it has highlighted an area where changes are required to improve the service we offer patients.”

Speaking to TheSouthern this week, Mr Scott told us: “That version of what happened in the A&E is inaccurate and sounds like a story concocted to get them off the hook.

“One of my golfing partners was a witness to what occurred and he can and will confirm that I was definitely asked to leave the hospital by the receptionist, not the staff nurse, with no intention of treating or even assessing me.

“I am taking this to the ombudsman because, regardless of the internal investigation, the fact remains that when I was in agony, I was not given the most basic treatment for a potentially serious condition.”