Last Saturday, as a member of the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, I was invited to a Membership Open Day tour of three areas of work at the Royal Berkshire Hospital - Renal, Cardiology and Therapies - with a light lunch to follow. These Membership Open Days highlight the Trust's strategy, which is -
"Exceeding our customer and patient's service requirements
Providing more services, in more places, closer to home, for more people
Investing in success so that our services will be in the top 10% nationally
Bringing together key providers to form a viable modern healthcare system
Making sure that people know what we do and why we are the best."
The Trust is based on several Hospital sites -
The Royal Berkshire
Prince Charles Eye Unit - Windsor
Renal Unit - Windsor
West Berkshire Community Hospital
plus community based services e.g., maternity, respiratory, children's services.
The membership catchment area includes Reading and Wokingham, West Berkshire and District, Southern Oxfordshire and East Berkshire and District. Membership input is sought and valued because it helps with -
Market research -
- members have some experience of the organisation
- good geographical coverage to test more local issues
- to reduce risk in decision making
and in generating local interest in local ownership and the role of Governors.
So we began our tour in the renal unit, where it was explained that there are two forms of dialysis to treat kidney failure - Peritoneal Dialysis and Haemodialysis. Peritoneal Dialysis differs from Haemodialysis in the instead of the blood being purified OUTSIDE the body with an artificial kidney, the blood is purified INSIDE the body using the PERITONEUM (the membrane that lines the abdominal cavity) as a natural filter. The abdomen is filled with dialysis fluid via a catheter. The fluid then removes toxins and water from the blood through the peritoneum. The 'dirty' fluid is then drained out and replaced with new, clean fluid for further dialysis. With the equipment we were shown, this dialysis can be caried out at home by the patient. Then we were taken to the bedside of a patient who was undergoing haemodialysis and could see for ourselves how his (toxic) blood was being extarcated and replaced with new, clean blood. This form of dialysis requires regular visits to hospital, when it takes 5 hours to complete the dialysis.
We could see that the patient was happy, although he said that 5 hours was sometimes tedious.
In the cardiology unit another patient acted as 'guinea pig' so that we could be shown how the medical staff can monitor the different sections of the heart, so that abnormalities could be detected and treated. We were also shown the procedure for diagnosing disease by ultra sound, and then we saw an angiogram on screen and how angioplasty (to treat furred arteries) is carried out. One member asked, 'Does it hurt?' and those of us who had had angioplasty were able to assure him that it doesn't!
Lstly, we were shown the kitchen in the therapies unit, which we found to be very interesting indeed. Here there were all kinds of ingenious devices to ensure safety in the kitchen for patients newly-discharged from hospital, some of them with disabilities. For the visually impaired, there is a simple gadget to slip on the lip of your beaker that rings a bell when the water you are pouring into it reaches the right height. I was amazed at the progress that had been made in this section since the days when I was being discharged with my leg in plaster, etc. For instance, in order to be able to cary things when I was using my zimmer frame, I used to hang a net over the front of the zimmer frame. Now they offer patients a specially-designed plastic bowl that fits neatly on the front of the zimmer frame. This is much more accident proof! There were oddly shaped knives for patients who can't grip and use a normal knife and non-slip mats to prevent dishes sliding around on the table. I could go on about this therapeutic kitchen for ages! Then we went into the 'gym' and a member of staff used the 'treadmill' - or should I say 'walking machine' - to show on the screen how the different speeds affect the heart and indicate the degree of abnormality and the treatment required. We were assured that they wouldn't put a 90-year old on this machine!
As one member said to me over lunch, 'The more I learn about the hospital, the more i want to learn'. there is a Theatres seminar on Tuesday 23rd September, a Cancer services departmental tour on Wednesday, ist October and the Annual general Mebers' meeting on Thursday 27th November at Madejski Stadium. The Trust is keen to recruit more members and governors.