A woman due to have spinal surgery at Chorley Hospital claims that she was treated like “a petulant child” and had her operation delayed by weeks after having a panic attack at a previous appointment.
Victoria Connor suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after sustaining serious injuries in an unprovoked assault four years ago. The planned procedure should have marked the latest stage in her long recovery.
But the 38-year-old suffered a panic attack in September, on the day she was due to have a pre-op assessment to ensure that she was fit for her forthcoming operation. It meant that she was unable to go inside the hospital when she arrived.
Victoria later discovered that she had been booked in for surgery on 25th October, but that the date was subsequently cancelled - because she was now deemed to need a specialist anaesthetist in case there was a repeat of the episode.
“When I spoke to the appointments department, I was told that I would have to wait until 12th December, because I ‘wouldn’t go’ to my pre-op - as if I had chosen not to,” Victoria explains.
But she claims that there was no need for the delay, as her panic attack had nothing to do with a fear of hospitals or operations - because she has had a lifetime’s experience of both.
“The patient transport was late, meaning I was going to have to wait to be slotted in to see somebody - before waiting another 90 minutes to be taken back home. I have to take medication at certain times of the day and I would have missed it - that’s why I had the panic attack.”
Victoria praises the compassion of the staff sister on the day of the pre-op who came out to see her in the patient vehicle - and her efforts to rearrange the necessary tests via her GP.
But she says that the hospital’s refusal to accept the reason for the attack has left her at risk of the surgery not being successful.
“Because I’m unable to work at the moment, I can’t afford to heat my house. So if I have the operation in the middle of winter, I’ll have to return to a cold home - and I need a good blood supply to the affected area for it to be able to heal.
“There’s also a risk of the nerves in my spine being cut off completely the longer I wait for the operation.
”All I want to do is to be able to get back to work, that’s what defines me,” says Victoria, wh has previously run her own business and was transferred for treatment at Chorley Hospital from North Merseyside were she lives.
Having also sustained a brain injury 18 years ago, she says that her experience raises wider concerns about how people with mental health conditions are treated.
“They’re treating me like I’m mentally disabled, not mentally ill. I’m in control of my faculties, but what if they do this to someone who isn’t?
“There is so little support out there for people in my situation - even the Patient Advice and Liaison Service couldn't do anything once I had a new date confirmed. So I feel like I should be an advocate for others.”
Responding to Victoria’s complaint, Karen Partington, chief executive at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals which runs the Chorley site, said: “Our priority is to always provide excellent care with compassion for our patients.
“We recognise that postponing operations can cause anxiety and disruption for our patients; we apologise for any distress that has been caused, however we must ensure that the appropriate specialists are available to carry out the operation.
“We are working with the patient to rearrange the procedure and resolve any issues.”