We demand to be treated with decency!

Mrs Shona Farnworth asks Pennine Acute Hospital Trust to treat her with the respect and decency she deserves.

What should be a usual visit to the gynaecology department for a cervical screening test has proved to be a lengthy and degrading ordeal for Mrs Farnworth.

As a wheelchair user with a complex disability, Mrs Farnworth requires use of a hoist for the procedure at Oldham Royal Hospital. However, at multiple appointments, she was met with a hostile environment.

Mrs Farnworth said: “My disability gives me plenty of challenges, which I manage to overcome in my own way. However, I am quite shocked by my experience with hospital appointments these past few months. I did not expect to get turned away from a smear appointment because of the lack of disability equipment.

“The hospital didn’t have a hoist or profile bed available, and no trained staff able to operate such equipment. I had to plead with them to provide a hoist and profile bed for me to have my smear test on. I ended up being provided with a small surgery bed and six nurses who didn’t know how to operate a hoist.”

Mrs Farnworth wrote to Pennine Acute Trust to make a complaint, and whilst she appreciates times have been difficult due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the issue is that her accessibility needs have repeatedly not been met.

Mr Lewis Farnworth, Shona’s husband, said: “I contacted the hospital to ensure they are aware she needs this equipment; however, appointments are being cancelled and distress has been caused when Shona has arrived at the hospital to be told there is no hoist available after us having to travel to the hospital.”

Mrs Farnworth has been supported by local disability charity Pennine Mencap for many years. Chair of Pennine Mencap, Mr Elliot Sparks added: “We are disappointed on many levels by the Trust’s mishandling of this situation. A smear can be painful and distressing for anyone, but it is a potentially life-saving test. To make it such a degrading ordeal for Shona is unacceptable.”

“At one point the hospital suggested that she could be strapped to a stretcher at home, brought to the hospital by ambulance for the smear, then returned home by the same means. Also with the dramatic suggestion that Mrs Farnworth should be put under general anaesthetic, this is something very shocking to Mrs Farnworth especially that her conditions may massively increase the risk. That such impractical measures were even considered is an indicator of the hospital’s dysfunctional approach to what should be a routine task.”

Councillor Louie Hamblett, Shadow Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care wrote to Mr David Jago, Chief Officer/Director of Finance at The Royal Oldham Hospital, on Mrs Farnworth’s behalf to demand why such missteps had been carried out. Despite some apparent technical hitches with the Trust’s email system, Cllr Hamblett has still yet to receive a meaningful response.

Cllr Hamblett added: “I am shocked that in today’s modern medical world our NHS are failing at the basic level of treating patients with decency and respect. I also call for our senior NHS partners at Pennine Acute trust to really learn from this and ensure such mistakes are not repeated.”

Mr Sparks concluded: “This issue may be affecting other wheelchair users as well. It has only been brought to our attention because of Shona’s bravery and willingness to share her experiences. Furthermore, we are concerned this may just not be limited to Oldham. Pennine Mencap would like to campaign for a wider investigation into the availability of lifting and handling equipment, and suitably trained staff, at gynaecology departments nationwide.”

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