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Rattling cages

New Practical Commissioning blogger, Dr Dinah Roy, has to step in - again - to sort out a patient's hospital care

Busy morning surgery where apart from the usual flu and depression, Mr P calls me. His wife was admitted last week with haematuria following an accidental warfarin overdose - not a prescribing error I noted with relief after checking anxiously.

She's currently occupying an acute hospital bed feeling well but increasingly neglected by staff telling her she can't leave until she's had a cystoscopy and an IVU. Meanwhile a hospital letter arrived at her home, with out-patient appointments for both – in three weeks' time!

Mrs P also observed a catalogue of failings, including an elderly patient being told they couldn't have their antibiotic because the ward had run out and pharmacy was closed until morning.

Mrs P wants me to get her into a ‘better hospital' (how would we define that?). Luckily some cage-rattling resulted in the investigations being scheduled later today, however the patient remains unimpressed.

Complaints about hospital care, especially discharges (no information, inaccuracies, medication issues,) are terrifyingly common and practice staff waste hours on the phone chasing information. The whole system seems chaotic and under huge pressure. Before Christmas, trust managers promised us named contacts for ‘urgent problems'. Over a month later, our consortium has heard nothing. We seem to have failed with contract levers and fines – so what's next if we are to change things for the better?

Mrs P know more than most about CQC registration and quality standards – she manages a care home. Perhaps it's time to harness ‘patient power'. What have we got to lose?

Dr Dinah Roy is a GP in Spennymoor , County Durham and chair of the Sedgefield PBC group.

Dr Dinah Roy