Claims hospital sent man, 80, home in pyjamas on boat

Thomas Ranger was discharged after an operation on his foot at Balfour Hospital, Kirkwall. Picture: Donald MacLeod
Thomas Ranger was discharged after an operation on his foot at Balfour Hospital, Kirkwall. Picture: Donald MacLeod
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A hospital is investigating complaints that it sent an 80-year-old patient home in his pyjamas on a two-hour boat journey.

Thomas Ranger was discharged after an op on his foot at Balfour Hospital, Kirkwall, Orkney.

His wife Tracy says he was put in a taxi in his pyjamas, and driven to the ferry terminal for the crossing to Sanday, the third largest of the Orkney islands.

He was wearing his pyjamas on a cold January day and was without his walking frame.

She had no idea he was being sent home, until a friend called, to say her husband was also on the ferry and had spotted Thomas.

“He had clothes in his case that they could have dressed him in, but he was still in his pyjamas,” she said.

“I just can’t understand (a) how it happened and (b) how they could show such lack of concern and duty of care for him, and especially a lack of common sense.”

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She says she now has “zero confidence” in NHS Orkney and has now asked for an investigation into her husband’s care.

Mrs Ranger said she was distressed to receive a call from a friend, last Monday afternoon, to say that her husband Peter was on the ferry in his pyjamas when she thought he was still in hospital. Though Mrs Ranger was then able to pick him up from the pier in Sanday, she has since criticised NHS Orkney for a “lack of concern and duty of care”.

“You know, he’s 80 years old and it’s the middle of January,” she said.

“We’re in refit, so it’s a two-hour ferry journey. Why would you put someone through that?

“Their duty of care is until he gets home, and honestly, he left their care when they put him in the taxi with no escort, no nothing, without me even knowing he was coming home. It’s just shoddy. It’s disgusting really.”

Mrs Ranger explained that she had originally been scheduled to visit Kirkwall on Tuesday, to coincide with her husband’s outpatient appointment that morning. She had then planned to take him home to Sanday, if he was fit to be discharged.

After returning home from work on Monday, however, Mrs Ranger said she found a message on her answer machine from Balfour Hospital, asking her to call them when she had a chance.

“I tried the number and it was engaged, so I went to put the kettle on and just at that moment a message pinged through from my friend saying did I know that Peter was on the ferry, because her husband was also on the ferry,” she said.

“I said ‘what?!’ And she said ‘Peter’s on the ferry coming home and he’s in his pyjamas!’”

Though Mrs Ranger was grateful for the ferry staff and her friend’s husband, who took care of him during the two-hour journey home from the town, she feels let down by the hospital staff who discharged him. After phoning the Balfour to find out what was happening, she said she was told by staff that they had expected her to be there on Monday, due to a mix-up in appointment times.

“They said ‘we went down and realised that the appointment was for Tuesday, but he was fit enough to come home, so we discharged him’,” Mrs Ranger said.

“Bearing in mind that he’d had a foot operation, and his mobility isn’t that great anyway — he walks with a frame and he didn’t have his frame with him.

“So they had literally put him in a taxi down to the ferry, and fortunately the taxi driver and the crew helped him. It was the Varagen, so they put him in a wheelchair and took him up in the lift.”

Mrs Ranger has now been left asking why her elderly husband was sent home without an escort, in his pyjamas, and without her knowledge.

“When they sent him home, they had no idea whether I was here, because they hadn’t actually spoken to me at that point,” she explained.

“By the time I spoke to them, he was already on the ferry. For all they knew, I could have been in town ready to pick him up the following morning.

Having made an official complaint to NHS Orkney, Mrs Ranger hopes to get some answers.

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“I’m his main carer. Pretty much everything I do, I do it for him,” she explained.

“I left him in their care and they completely let me down.

“We’ve asked for an official investigation, because he has various health issues, he’s 80 years old, so at some point he’s going to end up in there again. As it stands, I have zero confidence that they are able to look after him.”

Mrs Ranger says she would like to see a change in procedure and to be able to have a sit down discussion with staff.

“I don’t know what their guidelines are, but surely the procedure must be that you contact the relative and at least ensure that somebody knows that he is coming home,” she continued.

“That must be a fundamental thing, especially with elderly people, but with anybody really. It’s just common sense.

“They’ve got a brand spanking new hospital about to open. That’s all well and good, but unless they have procedures sorted out and staff properly trained what’s going to be different?”

Meanwhile, NHS Orkney has confirmed that it is investigating the complaint made by Mrs Ranger.

“I can confirm that a formal complaint has been made and NHS Orkney is investigating,” a spokeswoman said.

“The board will respond directly to the patient and their family.

“I can’t give any other comment given that this process is under way.”

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