Baby girl turned away from St Albans minor injuries unit

A DESPERATE mother with a sick 11-week-old baby was turned away from St Albans Minor Injuries Unit at the weekend because she had failed to make an appointment.

Gayeanna Allcock arrived at the unit at 9.30am on Sunday and was informed by a member of staff that she would have to go across the car park to use a public phone box to get an appointment if she wanted her child to be seen.

Gayeanna, along with her six-year-old son, had driven across St Albans from their home in Marconi Way after a sleepless night with her very young daughter.

She said: “When we arrived I was met by a member of staff who told me that I couldn’t be seen as I didn’t have an appointment. He shoved a piece of paper in my hand with the number for Herts Urgent Care on it and told me to go and make the call across the car park. He said that nobody could see me as I was already there and didn’t have an appointment.

“I tried to reason with them and said I was very concerned about my daughter and as I was already there, would it be possible to see someone? He asked me if her condition was life threatening, which really upset me. It was like talking to a machine and he just repeated that I needed to go and make a phone call in order to see someone.”

Gayeanna had visited a pharmacist on Saturday about her daughter’s wheezy chest and was advised to seek a doctor’s advice if her baby’s condition was any worse in the morning.

Anxious that her daughter was getting sicker, she had turned up at the Minor Injuries Unit (MIU) knowing that it also provided a GP out-of-hours service.

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Concerned that her daughter had been ill just a few weeks earlier and getting nowhere with the member of staff, Gayeanna returned home to call Herts Urgent Care.

A doctor called her back immediately and after hearing of the baby’s symptoms told Gayeanna to return to the out-of-hours GP service at the MIU urgently, giving her daughter a priority appointment.

Her daughter was later diagnosed with an infection and treated appropriately.

But an angry and frustrated Gayeanna says the lack of compassion and the rigidity of the system needs looking at. She added: “It doesn’t bear thinking about but someone elderly or someone without transport could go down to the unit feeling very unwell and be told they can’t be seen, which just doesn’t make sense. People need to be aware of the number for Herts Urgent Care so that they can avoid the stress and upset we experienced on Sunday morning.”

A spokesperson for West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust said they were unable to discuss specific cases. He said: “The Trust is always concerned to hear that any patient is unhappy with the care and service they have received. If this family would like to contact us directly through the Trust’s Complaints Department we would welcome the opportunity to thoroughly investigate their concerns and respond to them directly.”

The spokesperson clarified that the Minor Injury Unit at St Albans was a walk-in service which operates from 9am to 8pm seven days a week and no appointments were necessary. He explained that the GP out-of-hours service, which operates from the same centre and is run by Herts Urgent Care, uses an appointment system.

To contact Herts Urgent Care out of hours service, call 03000 333 333

n West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust (WHHT) has been named one of the top 40 hospitals in the UK this year.

As part of the CHKS Top Hospital awards, the trust was also shortlisted for the Quality of Care Award. It had been nominated after being found to excel in all quality of care indicators, including the length of time patients stay in hospital and the rate of emergency re-admissions.

Chief Executive Jan Filochowski said: “This important award reflects the tremendous professional and dedicated work of our staff. Quality of care is at the heart of our pledge to provide a first class service to our patients.”

The CHKS Top Hospital Award evaluates 21 key performance indicators, covering safety, clinical effectiveness, health outcomes, efficiency, patient experience and quality of care.