Several patients or visitors to Queen’s Hospital contacted us to express frustration that they had found using mobile phones and other devices difficult while visiting Queen’s Hospital as out-patients or to see friends or relatives who were patients there. They understood that - and why - they could not use phones while in the out-patients’ clinic or on the ward, but were concerned that they could not get a signal while in areas such as Reception, and often had to leave the building in order to get a good signal. So we asked Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust (BHRUT) for their comments.
We also asked what could be done to improve the experience of the waiting area for blood tests (phlebotomy). A long wait for a test is often unavoidable (given the apparent reluctance of users to go to other phlebotomy centres) but many people have complained that the current waiting area is uncomfortable for what can sometimes be several hours’ wait but that they cannot leave the area, for example to visit the Costa Coffee outlet, without the risk of losing their place in the queue.
In response, BHRUT have acknowledged that these are really important issues for patients and visitors. They have told us:
"Regarding the phone signal, due to the design of the Queen’s building, this is a problem. We are working on putting Wi-Fi in place and this will be available for patients in the future. The IT team are currently focussed on upgrading our IT networks, but when that is complete will then look at how we can make Wi-Fi accessible for the public. We’ll keep you updated in the coming months, and will certainly be calling for this to be expedited. Patients can access Wi-Fi via Costa and Bedrock Radio at the moment.
"To improve the waiting area in phlebotomy, considerable thought was given to which chairs should be used before the purchase was made. The chairs were chosen based on infection control risks, costs and durability of the equipment. From what we can see, the chairs are standing up very well to the wear and tear so far and hopefully for some time to come. Now that wait times have reduced considerably, we hope that they won’t be so uncomfortable for so long. It would be great though to involve patients in future of purchases of this scale – and I’ll pass this onto the team.
"The phlebotomy team have been working hard to bring about a number of improvements in recent months. An extensive capacity and demand exercise was undertaken – this demonstrated that we needed more resource. We have now invested in 10 additional staff who can provide blood tests across our sites. We have also changed the rota system, which means that more staff are employed at busier times in the department.
"Following patient feedback about improving the experience for children, we are now in the process of moving all children who need a blood test up to the children’s outpatients are. This has traditionally only been for children under three but we have also increased this to include all children under five. Plans are in place to increase this age until all children under 16 can have blood tests carried out in the children’s department from April 2016.
"We introduced the patient buzzers in some areas of outpatients in February. See the news story (link below) - we’ve just ordered another 16 sets to cover both hospital sites and they should be operational in the next 2 weeks.
Healthwatch Havering also suggested that BHRUT explore the possibility of providing some sort of pager system so that people could wait for their turn elsewhere than in the phlebotomy waiting area. They responded:
"Thank you for your suggestion about making pagers available to patients in order to alleviate the time spent waiting for blood tests. This is something that we have given consideration to in the past but there were a number of issues which arose. The main reason for not going ahead was the sheer volume of patients and the process that would be required to give the pagers out and collect them in again. This in itself would require a dedicated member of staff, as we are keen to keep our phlebotomists focused on the blood testing. The current ticketing system is one which is used across the country and works well for all concerned. It is at times inevitable that there will be an increased waiting time dependant on the volume of users on any given day – we hope to continue to reduce this waiting time."