Thursday, 23 May 2019

Don't be ill in the wrong place

Don't be ill in the wrong place

A PATIENT was refused treatment by an NHS hospital because she lives in the wrong county.

Chrissie Godfrey, from Sonning Common, was told she was ineligible for non-emergency services at Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading because her village is in South Oxfordshire, not Berkshire.

As a result, she had to pay for after-care or travel up to an hour to hospitals in Oxford or Abingdon for treatment, including physiotherapy.

This is about three times as long as it would take to travel the five miles to the Royal Berks.

Fellow Sonning Common resident Dirk Jones has complained to the Henley Standard that he had the same experience when seeking after-care hydrotherapy for an elderly relative for whom he cares full-time.

Mrs Godfrey said: “There doesn’t appear to be a national health service any more, it’s a county health system. The way it has crept in is insidious and people are not aware of it.”

The 76-year-old broke her leg in three places in a fall when visiting Blenheim Palace in July, just weeks before she married her husband Derek.

Mr Godfrey, 82, took her to the Royal Berks the following day and two days later she had surgery. She then spent a week at the hospital before returning home to Birch Close only to suffer a stroke days later.

She then spent another five days at the hospital where doctors said her stroke could have been caused by the anaesthetic before the operation or the leg break. Following her hospital stays, she was not offered after-care and when she enquired about physiotherapy she was told it was not available to her because she lived in South Oxfordshire.

Mrs Godfrey said: “I live in Sonning Common and pay my council tax to South Oxfordshire District Council. However, I live four miles from the Royal Berkshire Hospital so it was the obvious place to go when I fell.

“The treatment on the orthopaedic and stroke wards couldn’t be faulted. Everybody at the hospital did everything they could to help me get well.

“When I left the hospital the surgeon said, ‘get back to all the things you’ve been doing as soon as you can’. There was no offer of physio.

“I kept waiting and when it didn’t happen I went to Sonning Common Health Centre and paid for it.

“I protested at the fracture clinic and the specialist made a call and the physio rang me and said, ‘we are making a special case, we shouldn’t be treating you’.

“They said, ‘you pay your rates to South Oxfordshire, you should be getting support from Oxfordshire’. I live four miles from the Royal Berks, it’s ridiculous.”

Mrs Godfrey said she also received no offer of specialist stroke after-care and when she enquired she was again told she was ineligible.

This was despite asking guests at her wedding in August to make donations to the clinic as a thank-you for her treatment immediately after her stroke.

A friend contacted a stroke expert based at the Royal Berks and Mrs Godfrey was able to organise her own session with him this week, which cost her £200.

She said: “Apart from that it seems there would be no support for me. The early days after a stroke are when you are going to make the most progress — if you know what to do. I’ve had to do that myself.

“In the long run there’s more cost and time for the NHS because they are picking up people who could have been seen earlier and had more support.

“It could be months before I see him again and that’s not a good thing for somebody who has had a stroke.”

Mrs Godfrey said she was even told she should not have been issued with a walking frame and other equipment after she was discharged from the hospital.

She said she was concerned about other patients who had a similar or worse experience.

She said: “There will be people in Sonning Common and other areas who are struggling and won’t have the support they need.

“I’m extremely fortunate. My stroke, compared with a lot of other people’s, was small. My brain was affected but my speech wasn’t.

“I also have a loving husband and family and friends but I shudder to think how people living alone manage under similar circumstances.

“It now seems impossible or unimportant to have any joined-up thinking between Oxfordshire and Berkshire health provision so, if you have an accident, make sure it is where you pay your council tax.

“If you have a stroke don’t look for professional support or help because it isn’t there.”

Mr Jones, 67, of Kennylands Road, has an elderly relative who uses a wheelchair and says he struggles to get her referrals to hospitals when they’re needed.

He said: “We live in the deep south of Oxfordshire, 2,000 yards from Berkshire.

“We have a Berkshire postcode and Berkshire bus service but an Oxfordshire health service which refuses point-blank to authorise any after-care treatments prescribed by a doctor or consultant unless within its county’s borders.

“And this is only available, with a three-month waiting list, five days a week with Oxford an hour’s drive away unless you have a blue light.

“There are long time delays. We are talking about months, by which time the reason for it has either long since gone or gotten worse.

“We get letters saying this treatment needs to be done now but most referrals are to the Churchill Hospital in Oxford.

“Most of the stuff they recommend is in Henley or Oxford, which is a long way away and also has long waiting lists.

“It takes forever to get an appointment and there are only some things you can get done in Henley.”

Mr Jones, a former paramedic, said the long journeys to hospitals in Oxford were difficult, as was finding parking spaces but there was often no alternative.

He said: “With a wheelchair patient, it requires both a driver and a separate hospital escort as there is nowhere for the driver to park, even with a blue badge.

“There is no local way of accessing help other than dialling 999. The NHS is under-resourced left, right and centre. I don’t know what the answer is.

“This goes back a long time. Once you get into the Royal Berks it’s very good but you can’t get the referrals.”

A spokeswoman for the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, which is responsible for health services in the county, said: “If a patient has an acute stroke they will be treated immediately at their nearest hyper-acute stroke unit.

“In the case of patients in South Oxfordshire this is likely to be at the Royal Berkshire Hospital.

“Patients who require further rehabilitation such as physiotherapy could move to a local stroke unit for ongoing support from medical, nursing and therapy staff.

“South Oxfordshire stroke patients who are treated initially at the Royal Berks will get their stroke rehab in Oxfordshire.

“The stroke rehabilitation units are at the Horton General Hospital in Banbury and at Abingdon Community Hospital, managed by Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust.

“Patients could also be discharged directly home from the hyper acute stroke unit with rehabilitation at home provided by the early supported discharge for stroke service.

“A variety of specialist therapists work together with the nurses and doctors to help patients regain as much independence as possible following a stroke.

“Therapy will start from day one post-stroke as long as the patient is medically stable and may continue for some time.”

She said musculo-skeletal physiotherapy services in Oxfordshire were provided by Healthshare and were available at a number of hospitals in the county, including Townlands Memorial Hospital in Henley and Wallingford Community Hospital.

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