The adequacy of new accommodation for islanders undergoing specialist medical treatment in Southampton is being investigated, after a number of cancer patients gave ”concerning” feedback over noise levels, safety, catering and infection control, Express has learned.
Patients - around 170 of whom travelled to the UK for treatment last year - had previously stayed at the Jury’s Inn hotel, where they enjoyed daily meals and a daily bedroom maid service.
That was changed in January this year, from which point patients were placed in self-catered two-bedroom apartments in the Ocean Village marina complex in order to provide an experience more like home.
But some charities say that they weren’t consulted prior to the change, with one even continuing to hand out leaflets about Jury’s Inn – felt by many patients to be a more “appropriate” choice – weeks later.
They say that the lack of consultation stopped them from giving vital feedback, which could have prevented some of the “serious” problems now facing Ocean Village residents – many of whom are cancer patients attending for radiotherapy.
Pictured: Jury's Inn, where patients travelling from Jersey for treatment in Southampton used to reside. (Photo: Google Maps)
“It was all decided on their own. Nobody actually consulted with patients that were going over to ask, ‘what’s the best way forward?’ and ‘what are your needs?’” Cheryle Raphael, Chairperson of After Breast Cancer (ABC) Support Group told Express.
Many of the worries revolved around the location of the apartments, being within earshot of nearby restaurants and bars. Others complained that the noise, as well as the smells of neighbouring smokers, meant that they couldn’t open their windows.
A lack of basic amenities was also keenly felt, with residents who were already weary from their treatment having to walk up to 20 minutes to aTesco before having to cook their own dinner.
“You don’t want to cook when you’re ill, you don’t want to be dragging shopping bags around. One of the ladies got there and there were no basic items there at all like washing up liquid, stuff to clean with, no salt or pepper, nothing,” Mrs Raphael continued.
“With Jury’s Inn, you used to have meals supplied, which isn’t the case now. After you’ve been there a week, it’s £10 a day for your food, but you have to get receipts for everything and get the money back at the end of it. If you’re away for six weeks, that’s a lot of money for somebody to be forking out, especially if you can’t afford to.”
This was deemed an “unnecessary stress” for already vulnerable patients, who were also reported to have felt pressured by the warning that a lost key fob would entail a £150 charge, and upset by telephone issues.
The most “worrying” complaints, however, concerned the sharing of rooms, which gave rise to safety and cleanliness fears.
Pictured: The apartment's lounge space, which would be shared with another 'housemate'. (Photo: ESA)
One resident, who chose to remain anonymous, described the arrangement as, “…like living in a student hostel” after having been kept in the dark as to who would be moving in next, and whether they would bring a partner or family with them.
Another had her teenage daughter to stay, and had concerns over who would move in while her daughter was alone in the apartment when she went out for treatment.
While the service aims to match ‘housemates’ by gender and age, this doesn’t take relatives into account.
“It is completely wrong, especially if you’re having radiotherapy for delicate areas,” Mrs Raphael commented.
Moreover, there were concerns that sharing with a couple could heighten the already “isolating” experience due to the lack of communal space to mix with other patients, as was previously available in the hotel.
Sharing a space also meant sharing a bathroom, which was of particular concern to one resident, who anonymously commented: “The housekeeping standards were pretty poor. When there was a changeover of guest the sheets were changed and new towels left on the bed. The hoover in the storage cupboard was used but was ineffective. I don't believe the floors were mopped once. The drainage in the shower was blocked but nothing was done about it when I pointed it out. I did not feel the apartment was clean and would be concerned about infection control."
Pictured: The bathroom of one of the Ocean Village self-catered apartments. (Photo: ESA)
Mrs Raphael forwarded these concerns in a letter on 9 February to Hospital Managing Director Helen O’Shea. That led to a meeting with Piers Andrews, Health Department’s Divisional Lead of Operational Support Services, some six weeks ago - but Mrs Raphael says she’s yet to see change.
“We had a meeting for a couple of hours and put our points across, and did say that where you stay should be down to choice [between Ocean Village and the Jury’s Inn]… After all, you’re not going there for a jolly, you’re going there for treatment and to be looked after.”
The Health Department have not yet responded to Express’ request for comment.
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