Queen Elizabeth Hospital board pledges to improve communications after public meeting hears King’s Lynn family’s story

Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt

Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

Hospital bosses have pledged to improve communication after a woman gave them a candid snapshot of the care they gave two members of her family.

Two of Sasha Frieze's relatives were treated at the QEH. Picture: Ian Burt

Two of Sasha Frieze's relatives were treated at the QEH. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

Sasha Frieze's mother-in-law and father-in-law, both in their 70s, were treated at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn.

Ms Frieze, a communications consultant, told the QEH's board she had been travelling up and down from her home in London to visit them.

She added she had got to know the wards very well over the last for years.

Ms Frieze told board members she had 'fabulous experiences' with Claire Roberts, the hospital's associate director of patient experience.

The NHS Diabetes Prevention Program has been launched across Norfolk. Photo: James Bass.

The NHS Diabetes Prevention Program has been launched across Norfolk. Photo: James Bass. - Credit: Evening News � 2009

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'Her wisdom, experience, guidance and her old-fashioned approach to patient care was wonderfully supportive,' she said.

Ms Frieze said her 73-year-old mother-in-law had been diagnosed with dementia late in 2014. She added doctors did not tell her that a series of infections she had suffered were linked to the condition.

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'It would have been helpful if someone had sat us down and said this is a dementia story and this is what's happening,' she said.

At today's public board meeting at the QEH, Ms Frieze said care during the last few weeks of her relative's life in 2015 was 'very disjointed', adding they could not find a suitable care home.

Stock photo of a nurse.
Photo: Ian Burt

Stock photo of a nurse. Photo: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

She said when she died unexpectedly in hospital, her father-in-law was called at 3am by a non-native english speaker.

A report to hospital board members said Ms Frieze's family experienced 'a range of difficulties' after her father-in-law was admitted to the QEH in December 2015.

At first, they were told he had two cancers. She said a staff member was 'disrespectful' when they flicked through his notes and said they were not sure which was primary and which was secondary, adding: 'You can't imagine how distressful this was.'

The report to the board said: 'Initially the outcome had seemed very bleak but then a different and quite complex picture began to emerge.'

Ms Frieze was told her father-in-law had asbestosis. But her relative had not been told this. The meeting heard he is now recovering, after having a benign tumour removed.

'Nobody ever told us it wasn't cancer, no-one said we've over-stated it, we've got it wrong,' she said. 'The miscommunication and misdiagnosis of these two cancers was very distressing to us.' Ms Frieze said she had been frustrated by phones not being answered at the hospital. She said she had a number of recommendations.

'I would like to see communication training for all junior doctors, especially if they are not native english speakers' she said. 'The doctors need to sit down and hear real stories, work through them and practise them. It would make a huge difference.'

She added in an ideal world, a patient would have a relationship with one doctor, adding: 'There's no ownership of a patient any more, we must have seen millions of doctors.'

Emma Hardwick, the hospital's director of nursing, said: 'For me what came across is that consistency that's really, really important. We need to ensure we can support and equip our ward leaders to ensure that there is consistency there.' Nick Lyons, the QEH's medical director, said: 'Thank you for bringing things to our attention. It's only by hearing these stories we can try to make things better.

'Junior doctors already get communication training. My question is how can we make that better.'

Jon Green, the QEH's new chief executive, said putting the patient at the centre of their treatment would help improve issues such as 'joined-up' care.

After the meeting, Ms Frieze said: 'People are spread very thin when they work here. It's not just a challenge for the QEH, it's an NHS challenge.

'One of the challenges for every NHS hospital is it's such a big machine, getting every bit working at a time of austerity when there's far more people is very difficult.'

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