The 96 year old failed by Cardiff & Vale NHS health board

Lost in Llandough: please help my father

It is heartbreaking when the NHS fails the people it’s dedicated to help.

When my father Bob Skinner was brought home by air ambulance from Spain on 2 July, I was mightily relieved. It had been a huge battle getting him home after an accident on holiday, and it wouldn’t have happened without the valiant support of Dad’s MP, Stephen Doughty and his team. Yet his ordeal was only just beginning.

Fading hopes

Dad is still in hospital five months later. He has also been unable to eat properly for those five endless months, because the Cardiff & Vale university health board lost his dentures when transferring him between hospitals at the start of July. Shamefully, Cardiff & Vale has totally failed to take any responsibility for putting right the loss and getting Bob a replacement set of teeth. I made a formal complaint to Cardiff & Vale in September. Three months on – a quarter of a year on – we have had a string of broken promises to sort things out. I have twice asked Bob’s member of the Senedd, the economy minister Vaughan Gething, to help. Vaughan’s team contacted the ‘concerns’ team at Cardiff & Vale, but got nowhere. I feel so bad at failing to get the NHS to help Dad. But if Vaughan Gething, the Welsh government’s health minister through the worst days of the pandemic, can’t do anything, what hope do I have? Do I have to write to @PrifWeinidog (first minister) Mark Drakeford?

I say this to Suzanne Rankin, chief executive of Cardiff & Vale university health board. How would you feel if it was your father who was being neglected so badly? Can you imagine what it’s like for a 96 year old type 2 diabetic, constantly fobbed off and living off lukewarm soup and ice cream? Please, take responsibility and end the neglect. As a veteran who served in the army during the second world war, Bob deserves so much better. No one denies that the NHS is under huge strain, but Bob is just the latest example of how the service all too often lets down the most vulnerable and has to be chased repeatedly when things go wrong.

Happier days: Bob praises pandemic care home workers on primetime TV, April 2020

It’s heartbreaking seeing Dad in such a plight. He has an unquenchable spirit, although the past five months have tested his resolve to the limit. Back in the early days of the pandemic, he repeatedly went on national television to praise his care home workers. Our first lockdown reunion appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain. And he survived Covid and a fall in his former care home – all experiences that he reported in a pandemic blog which we later turned into an e-book, which featured on BBC Wales Today.

I just hope that Dad’s Llandough ordeal will have a similar happy ending.

PS: I should point out that the medical staff at Llandough have been kind and caring, especially Hannah, Manuel, Siân and Andrea – and there will have been others whose names I do not know. And a decade ago I praised Cardiff & Vale for its amazing work getting staff to its hospitals in a blizzard, enabling my late mother’s cancer operation to go ahead.

PPS: I was grateful to receive a call this morning from a director responsible for dentistry at the Cardiff & Vale university health board. My father’s case now appears to be a priority, which is good news. Thank you, Bev.

POSTSCRIPT

Bob with his new teeth, Friday 13 January

It’s only fair to update this post with praise for Cardiff & Vale university health board’s response to my cry for action. Roz and Bev sprang into action and Bob got his replacement teeth soon after the new year. On a video call just before Christmas, the team explained how they intended to apply the lessons from Bob’s experience, in particular to check that a patient does not leave hospital without their dentures.

Bob has made amazing progress in January, and is now blogging again! You can follow his progress here.

Proud of the NHS

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Llandough hospital in the snow

Today has been a stressful yet wonderful day.

My amazing 84 year old mother has had a major operation at University Hospital Llandough at Penarth, just outside Cardiff. It followed months of health worries – with my 86 year old father bearing the brunt of the worry.

We were concerned that today’s snowfall would lead to the operation being cancelled – but Cardiff & the Vale University Hospital Board and its staff did a magnificent job keeping things going.

Mum will spend a long time recovering from today’s operation. But we’re so glad to see her tonight sleeping peacefully on the ward.

Dad and I thoroughly enjoyed a pint of HB tonight at Penarth Yacht Club, followed by dinner washed down by a fine bottle of Rioja. Dad even reminisced about his 1930s childhood, in particular how deadly dull Easter Sunday was. He also remembered how his father listened to the football pools news on Saturdays on Radio Luxembourg – once winning £70! A lot of money before the war.