View from The Conquest Hospital, Hastings

Well, not much view, actually. My room overlooks an inner courtyard. While the ward bays have lovely views down over a lake, Battleaxe, oh luxury, has a room on her own. I’m spending a week in the Conquest Hospital, recovering from a big operation.

     My time here didn’t start out well.  After my operation I was put into an incredibly noisy bay – right by the Nurses’ Station, and excellent creatures though they are, the concept of whispering at night seems alien to them.
     There was a very old lady next to me with dementia who spent her time shouting ‘Nine Sardines! Sardines for tea’ unstoppably, interrupted by the occasional nurse who shouted down her ear ‘ARE YOU IN PAIN DARLING?’ ‘NINE SARDINES’ , she replied.
     There were people wheeled in from theatre, constant shrill  bleeping machines, miscellaneous groaning and wheezing…. and a bin at the bottom of my bed with a noisy clanging lid. Every few minutes a nurse would open the lid – clang, throw something in, bonk, and shut it, clang… By 3am I was feeling very overwrought and threw a massive screeching wobbly.  I know that’s shameful… Bless the staff, this room was empty so they moved me in. With luck, I’ll get to stay here.
     I don’t know how you’d get any sleep in some of those beds. Mind you, many of the other patients seem so out of it they’d scarcely notice.
     I think medical care for the frail elderly is a massive  challenge for the NHS.  This ward, Gardner, is supposed to be  an acute surgical ward, but there are elderly patients in here who should definitely be cared for somewhere else. Battleaxe must be nearly the youngest in here, except for a bloke who fell off a horse and he is very poorly indeed.

     Clearly, the staff spend a disproportionate amount of their time simply ensuring that the very elderly are kept fed, clean and safe.
     The care I have received so far has been excellent.  The ward is clean, and the staff are very pleasant and efficient, if overworked.  There is a ‘Matron’ in charge, a bloke.  He does get involved in hands-on care rather than being shut away in an office, but clearly there is a terrifying volume of paperwork. Matron spends ages outside my room, writing on a white board full of action plans, targets, performance indicators etc. There’s  another outside the staff room, full of Pathways to every outcome possible. Does all that management stuff  really make any difference? I used to think so – it was my living – I’m just so glad I don’t have to bother with it any more. Being Battleaxe, of course, I am out there yapping to him….
     Mind you, I get the care I need partly because I am strong enough to ask for it. I was just up at the Nurses Station twanging my horrible compression stockings to get someone to put them on, and asking for my bed to be changed.  In fact, Philosopher makes my bed, helps me wash etc. I get my own breakfast each day. I don’t know what happens if you are old and confused and don’t have anyone to speak up for you. The poor staff are constantly on the go go go, trying to do several things at once.
     Someone, I think it was Jim Breeds, asked me to comment on the food. I am probably the last person to ask because I can eat virtually anything and just loved my school dinners.  They have an extensive menu of yummy school food – shepherds pie with carrots, hotpot, jam sponge and custard, macaroni cheese etc., which I am happily scoffing  my way through. I think some people complain, but then they always would. The food is hot, tasty and varied, and they are happy to provide healthy options like side salads to go with the stodge. It seems fine to me.
     Clearly, I can’t post my usual photos, but here are a couple of food pictures….. Hotpot, apple crumble, roast beef and chocolate sponge.

    Someone died in here a few hours ago. They said nothing, shut all our doors and pulled the blinds down so we wouldn’t see, but being me I peeped and saw the covered trolley go rolling down the corridor. Why do they keep death so secret? On a ward like this some people are very ill, and often very old and frail. Of course they are going to die. I guess many people have died in this bed I am lying in. It is part of life – we shouldn’t hide it.
    So, finally, what is Battleaxe doing here?  Well, for me, it’s not life-threatening, but am not going into details on the inter web. My consultant, Miss Shah, a very small, fierce and highly-regarded lady, has used a new procedure on me which she wants monitored in hospital for a week. She is very savage – makes  Battleaxe look like a babe in arms. The combination of the two of us is an absolute killer. I go to the desk, say ‘Miss Shah said…so can I please have…’ and they are jumping all over the place.
    It seems a lavish use of scarce NHS resources to keep me in, but she was adamant. I get very bored – even asked the staff if I could help feed the old ones, whereupon they nearly collapsed with horror at the very idea. Methinks they could use some volunteers.
    Also, I am not totally sure Miss Shah totally appreciates quite how stretched the care on a ward like this is at weekends. Rumours go round the wards that there are only one or two doctors on duty in the whole hospital. Dunno if that’s true but you don’t see many. Philosopher could look after me just as well at home, except I do have these horrible drain tubes attached to my person, leading into bottles. 

    Don’t get ill at the weekend, people.

    Overall, I am very pleased with the Conquest.  I had a chat with some inspector type doing an unannounced  check on our ward, and told him positive things, and that in my view people would rather have one decent local hospital rather than having spurious choices.

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