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Deaf Son’s Mum Says Getting Treatment Was ‘Like an Assault Course’

Published on: 27 May, 2022
Updated on: 28 May, 2022

By Emily Coady-Stemp

local democracy reporter

The mother of a deaf teenager has said getting his treatment at Guildford’s Royal Surrey County Hospital was like “an assault course”.

The woman, who cannot be named, said her willingness to help her son hadn’t changed, but she felt she had been made to do the assault course wearing a blindfold, ear defenders and her hands and feet shackled, such was her “lack of tools” to deal with the situation.

Giving her patient story at a board meeting of the NHS trust which runs the Royal Surrey County Hospital among others, the mother, who we are choosing not to name, said she had been visiting the hospital for around 11 years with her son.

He was two years old when he first visit the department, but didn’t get his hearing aids until he was three and a half.

She said this was too long at a “critical time in a child’s development in relation to their speech, in relation to their neurological development relating to deafness and hearing.”

Trust chair Sue Sjuve apologised to the mum on behalf of the trust for the difficulties she had in navigating the system and in making her complaint.

Ms Sjuve added: “We want to learn from your experience and ensure that we do better in the future, and assure ourselves as a board that we already have learned from this and have improved the process.”

The woman said in one year her son had more than 50 appointments at the hospital.

He is classed as a “complex case” because they do not know why he is deaf and he has other health issues.

She highlighted that she was not from a medical background, and that the rest of her family is hearing, and did not have any experience of deafness before having her son.

The only way she could describe her “journey” was as someone saying she had to do an assault course to help her son, and she was “absolutely willing to do that.”

She added: “I’m up for that. I’m absolutely willing to do that.

“But at the same time they’re saying we’re going to make you wear this blindfold, these ear defenders and we’re going to shackle your hands and feet.

“Now go and do your assault course. The willingness doesn’t change. I’m absolutely willing to do it but I don’t have the tools.”

She said she was reliant on the hospital to say what they could do for the family and how the journey might look, but said “hand on heart” she had never had that conversation at Guildford.

The meeting also heard from Matt Jarratt, the trust’s chief operating officer, who said that there were common themes he would take away to look at across the organisation.

These included continuity for patients and the staff they were seeing, and communication with patients when speaking to people often at a time of “distress or frustration”.

The mother said she had made her complaint slightly “by accident” and that it came about both as a historic issue from her many years at the hospital, but also as a very present issue when she struggled to get replacement hearing aids for her son in December last year.

The trust confirmed it had made changes to the availability of hearing aids, and a new administrator was in place who would have a better understanding of the workings of the department and the patients.

The mum called the complaints team at the hospital “extremely professional” and said she had been really impressed by them.

Karen Lammaing, head of audiology, had previously met with the mother to discuss her complaint.

She said continuity of care was difficult, as the mum had recognised, because people go on leave or may be absent for other reasons, but that all work in the department was now “templated” to make sure all staff were up to speed.

She added: “There is better communication within the whole team and more sharing of experiences.”

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