With a friend admitted to hospital, Noel Plumridge reflects on the quality of care on offer in what is shaping up to be a long stay for the patient

My friend S has now been in the acute stroke ward for five days. We still have no clear information about what’s happening. 

Admitted early on a Friday morning, the ambulance paramedics had said he’d probably be out within three or four days. I trust paramedics: they’ve seen it all before. Soon after admission “EDD”, written in blue marker pen, appeared above his bed, beneath the “nil by mouth” and the consultant’s name. If that EDD means estimated discharge date, it needs updating.

There’s no hint that the hospital want their bed back. Any number of electrocardiograms, blood tests and scans, but not a sniff of any results. And nothing at all seems to happen at weekends. It’s not like this at Holby City.

It’s looking more like a stroke than the transient ischaemic attack the ambulance guys initially suggested. Not a catastrophic stroke − no obvious paralysis, and speech already massively improved − but serious enough to leave S confined to bed and hooked up to various drips and machines for nearly a week. 

More questions than answers

The real problem is the swallowing reflex, which isn’t functioning at all. S can no longer eat or drink.

There’s a suggestion the chest infection that’s causing S such discomfort may in fact be pneumonia. Without information from the hospital, we scour the internet and ask friends. Pneumonia has been linked to the type of immune system-suppressing drugs S takes for his arthritis. Maybe that’s the root cause. And there’s a specific type of scan that might indicate whether the throat problem is temporary or permanent. That’s something we can ask about.

‘There’s no hint that the hospital want their bed back. Nothing at all seems to happen at weekends’

But who to ask? Hospital policy is not to give clinical information by phone. “Just ask the nurses,” says the ward clerk. Persistence brings two diary dates: one with the ward sister, tomorrow, and a further appointment on Friday afternoon with the consultant.

Perhaps then we’ll learn how the tests are going.

Noel Plumridge is an independent consultant and former NHS finance director, noelplumridge@aol.com. Next week Noel looks at what happens on the ward at night.

Reflections on care on the stroke ward