Chronicles of the Heart, Part 35 – the formal complaint.

I have had enough. The utterly incompetent cardiologist,** Dr. Nick Newall, at Arrowe Park Hospital, Wirral, as I’ve said previously, has ignored me ever since I pulled out of a bunch of tests he had planned because I was too ill.

**Semantic quibble – can someone who has actually done nothing at all be incompetent? Sod it – can’t think of anything better.

I also, quite seriously, suspect that the tests were more a fishing expedition for data that would benefit him rather than me. For example, I said I wake up breathless in the night – of course I bloody do, I have severe COPD and heart failure, it would be a miracle if I didn’t wake up breathless – that’s what my Ventolin inhaler is for. He still ordered a sleep apnoea test.

OK, I could deal with that, but the problem was that I was expected to attend the hospital at 16.30 on two consecutive days, which was never going to happen  – and this was a problem with all the tests, scheduled at impossible times.

At 16.30, assuming I’m well enough to get there, the hospital is still full of visitors, and negotiating the absurdly crowded main corridor, which is a mini-mall in all but name, in my powerchair, would be hazard enough. Getting into the lift to the third floor – and down again – would be impossible, which I know from experience. And getting taxis at that hour is problematic too.

Other tests were scheduled for 09.30, also on consecutive days, and also quite impossible. Going once a week, at a suitable time, would be enough of a challenge.

I explained all this to Newall. He ignored it, and has ignored a subsequent letter explaining that my health is deteriorating, and asking, politely, what the bloody hell he thought he was playing at.

He ignored that too.

So it’s formal complaint time. I’ve emailed the complaints department, asking to whom I should send my letter, and for an email address (preferred), or fax number, and written the letter – it just lacks an addressee. This is it, for now at least. It may yet be tweaked – I’d like it to be angrier if I can manage that without being libellous (which might actually benefit me if he sued – it’d get the bastard into court!) :-

I am writing to complain in the strongest possible terms about cardiologist Dr. Nick Newall, whose complete inaction is putting my health, if not my life, in grave danger.

I have been diagnosed with aortic valve calcification and stenosis, and heart failure. Dr. Newall appears to think the cause of the heart failure is a mystery. I feel my severe COPD, and the aortic valve problem, are explanation enough – either or both  can cause heart failure. I was told by my GP years ago that I was showing early signs of Cor pulmonale. If it looks like and duck and quacks like a duck, it’s pretty good odds it really is a duck.

According to the literature – in the absence of proper medical care the literature is all I have – given my symptom set, the aortic valve problem is likely to prove fatal within 2 years, and I am at least 16 months in (opinions vary somewhat, but 2 years is a good enough working average; much longer is unlikely). My COPD, of course, does nothing to improve my prospects. I put this to Dr. Newall in January; he didn’t disagree.

That I have to die before my time is bad enough. That my end is likely to be hastened by the staggering incompetence of Dr. Newall is totally unacceptable.

(NB: My heart failure was diagnosed while I was an in-patient in January last year – unfortunately, some other inept moron failed to record it in my notes, a copy of which I have. Around 100 pages to cover 4 days, and mostly a work of fiction. They are a damned disgrace.)

After my appointment With Dr. Newall in January,  I wrote to him, pulling out of a test he had planned because I felt it was too dangerous (catheterisation of the left ventricle, via the defective aortic valve carries a 24% risk of stroke, a risk I considered too great).

By the way, Dr. Newall – or maybe it’s APH policy – fails to grasp the concept of “informed consent” when it comes to risky diagnostic procedures. That really is not acceptable at all.

I was forced to write again, shortly afterwards, and cancel a batch of tests he’d scheduled (I also missed a couple – it’s impossible for me to know in advance what I’m going to be capable of on any given day, and mostly it turns out to be nothing).

He responded by saying, in his letter of  March 7, that when I felt up to it  “we’ll try and revisit the situation”.  I wrote back saying I was willing to try, but I was subject to quite severe constraints, which govern what I can  and cannot do, and when I can do them – in a nutshell, on the best of days I have only a narrow window of opportunity, around the middle of the day and, if I have to go out, it can take me up to 4 hours to get ready. I also explained that this had been so for many years, and was clearly not going to change.

There was much more, but  a copy of the letter is attached, so there is no point in my reiterating it all here.

I got no response to that.

I wrote again on May 7. My letters to him have been faxed directly to his office – lost in the post is never going to work as an excuse.

I explained, again at length, that I was deteriorating, and I had no choice but to assume, from his silence, that neither he, nor APH – or both – had any interest in complying with the terms of  the Equality Act of 2010, and that they had no intention of even trying to accommodate my disabilities (outside of my flat I am a full-time powerchair user, as I’m now too weak to use my manual chair – I would be inside my flat too, but it’s too small), and that he was leaving me no alternative but to seek legal advice.

Needless to say, that was ignored too, but believe me when I say that, if this letter fails to elicit a favourable response, I shall have no hesitation in doing just that.

I have a condition which the literature agrees is fatal, and which is mostly untreated, thanks to Dr. Newall shirking his responsibilities.

Even without his tests – about the usefulness of which, to me, I am extremely dubious, even were I well enough to submit to them which I manifestly am not – there is plenty of scope for Dr. Newall to medicate my condition; he is, after all, a physician, not a surgeon, and according to your website that is exactly what he is supposed to do, and is failing utterly.

I also enquired of Dr, Newall about the results of the various tests he’d had done in January. Of course, I’m no wiser.

I have not been discharged from Dr. Newall’s clinic (I almost said “care” but that would stretch the truth beyond breaking point), so as far as I am concerned he is still my cardiologist of record.

The bottom line is that it’s been 11 weeks since I heard anything at all from him, 4 months since I saw him, and during all that time my condition has continued to deteriorate, and about that nobody is doing – or even trying to do – anything at all.

I need him – or, probably better, another cardiologist who actually cares about  his or her patients – to attend to my needs. And soon, before it’s too late.

And in case it is already too late, be advised that everything pertaining to this disgraceful farce, up to and including this letter, has been published on my blog. Newall can ignore me, and I might die because of that, but he can’t hide his incompetence from the public any longer.

Yours faithfully, (end)

Note for WordPress admin – everything here is verifiable.

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13 thoughts on “Chronicles of the Heart, Part 35 – the formal complaint.

  1. Would negligence be a more appropriate word? He has neglected to treat you after all.

    I hope this letter brings you the treatment you need Ron.

    • I’d have sworn negligence was in there too, but it’s not – written so damn much about this I’m losing track. Probably right though.

    • Rewritten opening sentence of letter:-

      I am writing to complain in the strongest possible terms about cardiologist Dr. Nick Newall, whose comprehensive neglect is putting my health, if not my life, in grave danger. Where, in his contract, does it say that doing nothing to treat a seriously, probably terminally, ill patient is even remotely acceptable?

      (The implication being that he’s probably in breach of his contact.)

    • Frustrating is waiting for a bus that doesn’t come. Doesn’t even come close to describing this interminable, potentially lethal, clusterfuck!

      • a friend needs to read your post, I keep telling her she needs to put her experiences in writing. Between the two of you there could be an overhaul of the medical system due to the unbelievable mess ups. Things I see are wait 3 months to see MD for CHF symptoms, or go to ER. Show up for echo and it’s scheduled in town 100 miles away. Pacemaker ICD supposed to communicate to physician but wasn’t turned on for 2 years. MD not believing heavy metal rock makes ICD try to pace heart…the list goes on…I’ve even seen 3 weeks to get appointments for sore throat

        • Well, yeah, if you friend’s having problems she should go for it – but keep it legal and stick with verifiable facts.

          You might notice I’ve made a small change for that reason – removing a couple of line of hearsay. Not because I have any reason to doubt its veracity, but because I can’t prove its true if challenged.

          If she doesn’t have a blog I believe Tumblr is particularly easy if she doesn’t like WP.

          The more people who complain about shoddy – or totally absent – treatment, the better. I’d offer one word of advice, though – don’t do it anonymously. Partly because it dilutes credibility, but for me, the main reason is that if you’re accusing someone, by name, of, as in my case, putting your life on the line due to incompetence and neglect, you really must stand by it, and put your own name to it.

  2. Ron, can you not ask to be referred to someone else? Maybe someone out of area? I agree that you shouldn’t have to do this, but it might be the best option for your health.

    • Yep, doing that – it’s near the end of the letter. Out of the area, though, is even less feasible than getting to APH – I can’t use public transport, and a taxi even to somewhere as close as Liverpool is anywhere from £30 return to double that, depending on the hospital.

      • Ron,

        Why not do what I used to do when I used to go to my local abattoir, oops, sorry, hospital and that is to travel via the ambulance service. If you think that this would help you, you’ll need to ask for a “tail-lift” ambulance to accommodate your wheelchair or they may send a standard saloon car to your home to pick you up.

        The downside of using the ambulance service is that you will have to be ready and potentially wait for some hours before they turn up at your door to take you to hospital and the same thing may happen when you’re finished and waiting to go home. You will not be the only patient on board the ambulance either.

        I used to telephone my unitary council to book an ambulance and I’m surmising that this service hasn’t changed much since the ConDem government started with their cuts.

        It’s something for you to ponder over.

        Best of luck…

        • Bottom line is is that none of the free services can guarantee getting me there on time (for physio, that wasn’t important; for cardiology with hordes of people waiting, and when tests might be scheduled, it matters). Anyway I’ve used the “ambulance” service in the past – spending over two hours touring the area with a bunch of old farts (old people seem to tie up most of the free transport services around here) picking up others, is an experience I’ve no desire to repeat. And, of course, you’re hanging round for hours waiting a ride home again – another two-hour journey if you’re unlucky.

          Ambulances have to be booked by GPs – been that way for decades.

          • You’re quite correct about having to book ambulances via your GP practice. I used to do the same for many years until April 2009 when my district council was abolished and my local authority became the unitary council for my county. I don’t know if this became nationwide or whether it differs county to county.

            My council introduced their “Travel Response” scheme which took over from all GP practices in my county for booking hospital transport. You’re still given the third degree whenever someone telephones them to use the ambulance service. It also had its teething troubles when it was implemented. I don’t know what it’s like today because after visiting various consultants at various departments at various hospitals for well over 10 years, without success and nothing substantial ever being done to help me, now whenever my GP hints about hospitals, I automatically refuse any and all referrals.

            My worst trip to hospital via the ambulance service was in 2008 when I was having problems with my bowels and a colonoscopy had been arranged. I even telephoned the ambulance control centre to ask them to arrange for the ambulance crew to pick me up last and then go straight to hospital from my address as I would be under the influence of that horrible industrial strength laxative, ‘Picolax’ and I didn’t want any accidents to occur on the way there.

            Even though I was assured by the control centre staff that they would instruct the ambulance crew of my request, needless to say on the day of my trip, the crew arrived but still had other patients to pick up from a nearby town. When I mentioned to the crew of my arrangements with their control centre, the female crew member became a right horrible bitch and even accused me of wanting to needlessly waste money by trying to arrange for an ambulance all to myself. I told them that any accidents that I may have during this particular trip would down to them and that I will be making a complaint in writing to their bosses.

            Later I noticed that all subsequent ambulance trips to hospitals went without problems. The crews were always very professional though the rapport with them was never the same again. Well I can live without their friendship.

            I was always told by the ambulance crews that during the booking in procedure at hospital to mention that I had travelled to hospital via the ambulance service as they would always try and give such patients priority placement and any such delays were forgotten and the appointment times became much more flexible. Most of the time it worked great but early morning or late afternoon appointments are no good as the ambulance crews start to pick up patients from about 8:30 AM and they finished work at 4 PM.

            Strange, but there are lots of able-bodied people who cannot get their heads around just how exhausting it can be, travelling to & from hospital, never mind the tedious wait you have to endure for your appointment to begin once you’ve arrived.

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