Norwich hospital chairman becomes patient after fall from ladder

The chairman of a Norwich hospital has told how he was admitted as a patient after a fall from a ladder left him needing surgery for a broken pelvis and hip.

Four weeks ago, David Prior, chairman of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, was up a ladder using a chainsaw to chop off the branch of a tree at his Swannington Manor home, when he fell.

The 57-year-old admits it was 'completely, ridiculously stupid', but jokingly maintains that it was his own way of carrying out market research so he could find out was it was like in hospital.

From being thankful for the NHS, to marvelling at the skill of surgeons who pieced him back together with nuts and bolts, the former Conservative MP said his experience at the N&N had been very positive and instructive.

More used to running the hospital than being a patient, it comes as no surprise that it was difficult for Mr Prior to find himself in such a vulnerable position, and to put his life in the hands of others.

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He said: 'You are putting your life totally in the hands of others and it's an awesome responsibility for them and a huge act of trust for us.

'It's why the doctor/patient relationship is so important. You have got to have total confidence that the doctor is acting in your best interests and not just interested in meeting government targets or making money.'

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Mr Prior spent two weeks as an inpatient, and during that time came into contact with and was helped by at least a hundred different members of staff.

He says: 'What really strikes you from there on is the kindness of the nurses who hold your hand when you are in pain. It makes a huge difference when you are feeling so vulnerable and out of control. Small acts of kindness can make you feel psychologically so much better.

'You can be surrounded by medical equipment and have wires and tubes coming out of every orifice and you can feel so dehumanised in that situation. It's that touch of humanity that makes the difference between a good nurse and an excellent nurse.

'Nurses should never be too busy to take the time to relate to the patient as a human being.'

Mr Prior cannot put any weight on his left leg for three months, and for someone who lives life in the fast lane and loves playing squash, swimming, running and cycling, it has come as a real blow.

But the father-of-two knows how lucky he is because he will get better. The worst prognosis he faces is perhaps having to have a hip replacement, which he hopes to avoid.

What is clear is that Mr Prior cannot praise the staff who helped him highly enough, even though he admits his own experience will have been coloured by them knowing about his position as chairman. He said: 'But people are either kind or not kind and they are either competent or not competent.

'All I can say is that the people we have working at the hospital are extraordinarily kind and caring, skilled people.'

Do you have a health story? Contact reporter Kim Briscoe on 01603 772419 or email

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