Daunting Decisions – What Hospital?

Immediately after receiving my diagnosis, I was asked to choose a hospital for my treatment.  I was not particularly knowledgeable about the options and asked for advice from the physio who diagnosed my condition.  She said most people are referred to their local hospital and suggested that might be the most convenient option for me.

I confided in her that my son had had a particularly bad experience at our local hospital, and I felt reluctant to go there for my treatment.  I explained that a few years previously, Harry broke two bones in his forearm playing football at school.  Following surgery to pin the two bones, he acquired MRSA which went undiagnosed for several weeks.  He went on to develop acute osteomyelitis, a serious infection of his ulna bone which put him at risk of losing his arm and his life.

Poor Harry had a pretty gruesome time of it requiring eleven surgeries, many weeks in hospital, intravenous antibiotics and a long spell attached to a wound vacuum.

Happily, he made a full recovery, and, as a measure of his positive outlook on life, he credits the whole dreadful chapter as “a good thing”, enabling him to find his vocation to become a doctor.

He bears some permanent reminders of his experiences in the form of two long, deep scars on his left arm.  When anyone asks about them, he typically says with a smile, “You should see the other guy.”  He is a very wonderful, sorted fellow.

I, on the other hand, am cut from far less forgiving cloth.  Without question, watching my son in pain tops my “life’s worst moments” list, and I felt uncomfortable planning my surgery at the hospital where his woes originated.

My physio said she understood my feelings and mentioned that both she (carpal tunnel) and her father (knee replacement) had recently had successful surgery at another hospital known as an orthopaedic centre of excellence.  She thought I might be best going there, despite its distance from home.  I agreed, and that was that.  First decision, choice of hospital, made.

Choosing the right hospital is very important from the patient’s point of view.  Given the opportunity, many people choose to research their options and compare the performance of different hospitals.  There is an increasing amount of information in the public domain available to assist.  The NJR Annual Report and Public and Patient Guide are good places to start. http://digitalpages.digitalissue.co.uk/go/njrpublicandpatientguide2013/

Many patients also look at the NHS Choices website which includes information on infection rates, number of similar procedures performed and details of patients’ experiences.  This last section is a bit like a “Trip Advisor” with patients providing ratings on a scale of 1-5 and comments about their stay.  As with all similar systems, the comments range from glowing endorsements to very detailed complaints.  I made the mistake of looking at my hospital’s ratings recently and am now worried that I might be sent to the fearsome-sounding Ward 5!

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