Mother of autistic teenager speaks out after “horrendous” treatment by St Albans hospital staff

St Albans City Hospital. Photo: Danny Loo.

St Albans City Hospital. Photo: Danny Loo. - Credit: Archant

An angry mother has called for hospital staff to be better trained after her autistic son was “ignored” and “patronised” at a consultation.

St Albans teenager James, who would prefer to only use his first name, visited the minor injuries unit at St Albans City Hospital on October 23 after rolling his ankle at school.

With a complex autism diagnosis, which includes ADHD and a type of full body hypermobility called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, James becomes distressed if he is forced to talk to strangers.

In preparation for his consultation, James made a voice recording to explain his pain so he would not have to interact with any strangers.

However, after a nearly three hour wait, the nurse would not listen to the recording and insisted on talking to him directly.

He said: “I did the recording because I didn’t want to talk because of my autism. I find it hard to talk, people make me feel nervous.

“I felt ignored and upset.”

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After a five minute consultation, James was told to have 24 hours rest. A second opinion by a more understanding GP revealed a drastically different diagnosis of eight weeks rest.

The 13-year-old said he felt “betrayed”: “I wanted my leg cut off because it’s too painful, [the nurse] said I was walking normally and I can’t walk properly, so this made me feel annoyed and angry because she didn’t want to listen to me.”

James’ mum described the consultation as patronising.

She said: “I know they were really busy but I have a child that is on the spectrum and it made me feel really sad and disgusted.

“My son has no confidence in doctors. When a child has prepared a short description of the pain because he can’t talk to people they should listen to it.

“I am really angry. This was disgusting treatment. They clearly need to be trained in dealing with people with autism.”

Chief nurse Tracey Carter said: “We are very sorry that the family feels that their son did not receive the care to which he is entitled. It is our vision to provide the very best care to every patient and we will be investigating fully the circumstances of this case.

“Due to our patient confidentiality policy we are unable to comment further about the care of an individual patient. We have a patient liaison team who help in the care of vulnerable patients and provide training for staff to ensure patients are treated appropriately.”