Chemo boy makes his less-than-enthusiastic return today for the start of the third cycle.

B went to the Royal Marsden in Sutton yesterday to have his usual blood test, consultation and collect the drugs. He’s always a bit low before he goes, and even more depressed when he gets back. I had put it down to the simple horror of visiting a public cancer hospital, which isn’t pleasant. But it turns out that the ‘caring and organised’ vibe presented to us at our initial consultation in September has not stood the test of time.

Being a man, and a German one at that, B doesn’t usually say much when he returns from the hospital. It was only after holding him down and beating him about the head with a bratwurst that I discovered that:

  • He hasn’t seen his consultant since September
  • He hasn’t seen either of the Oncology nurses handling his case since September (despite their assurances that one of them would be present at each of his consultations)
  • He has seen a different neuro-oncologist each time, all of them abrupt and dismissive

He feels, understandably, that nobody is taking an interest in him or his welfare during the treatment. This raises my ‘protective wife’ hackles and makes me quite angry. I’ve heard the acronym NHS used in many derogatory ways, but for me at the moment it stands for Not Happy Sistah!

This means that it is time.

Time for a Strongly Worded Letter (SWL).

The hospital has a formal procedure for complaints about patient care, but I think I should contact the Oncology nurses in the first instance, to give them a chance to respond. If there is no joy I will definitely go down the formal route.

I am no stranger to the SWL, in fact it’s one of the skills I bring to the table in my role as Personal Cancer Assistant.

B is mild mannered, polite and patient, and I love him for being that way, but it doesn’t always work in his favour in these situations. Luckily he has a rambunctious wife ready to act on his behalf.




  1. Give them a call first? xx

    1. We’re supposed to email and they will call back – they are pretty much uncontactable by phone! Will let you know how it goes.

  2. Right, I’m sure they don’t want to be too accessible!

  3. jo westwood · · Reply

    Please do not assume this is just a Nhs problem. Marks team at the Maidstone hospital were pretty good. WE had an oncology nurse I could contact through the phone. Although she could sometimes be very matter of fact she would at least come across as listening.
    Now we’re being seen in Canterbury we have a fantastic Oncologist & Oncology Nurse. Mary our nurse has even Counselled me over the phone. We have her number and she is our 1st contact. She will then do everything in her power to help. She will cancel and rearrange appointments etc. Dr Nathan Marks Oncologist even phoned Mark from home once when Mark needed some reassurance.
    So yes Jill fight for B because this is disgusting the way he’s being treated. I sometimes wonder myself if its down to the Nhs or just a Good old fashioned bed side manner.

    1. Thanks Jo. I think it’s a combination of overworked staff and arrogant doctors. I do think the Oncology nurses are caring but it’s easy for them to ‘forget’ about people when they are so busy. We also can’t help but compare it to B’s experience with the private London Clinic, which was excellent.

  4. I’m sorry to hear B has had such a terrible time with the Oncology department, we’ve been very fortunate but occasionally have hit brick walls and it is one of the most frustrating things – do you have access to a palliative care counsellor? If so I highly recommend seeing one, it really helped Chris come out of his shell and voice his opinion and thoughts more (the first one he went to on his own, I’ve been a few times with him and alone).

  5. I feel for you and B – it is totally unacceptable that he has been treated in this fashion. I appreciate that the nurses/doctors are all busy, BUT, that is not B or your problem – its something for the NHS to sort out so that his care is professional, kind and compassionate plus gives him confidence. Yep, give the nurses the opportunity to respond to your concerns, but if they don’t come back to your pretty prompty then go the formal route

  6. Go Jilly! Kick some oncology ass Sistah!

    This page might be inspirational for you http://melbuttle.com.au/2012/08/28/mels-strongly-worded-letters-on-tom-and-alex-3/

  7. […] saw both the German and B’s oncology nurse this time. I got a response to my complaint about B’s experience as a Sutton outpatient. As expected they said they are very busy and […]

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