Royal Free Hospital suspends service as all staff go on sick leave

The Royal Free Hospital has been forced to suspend a vital service for kidney transplant patients because all their staff went off sick, leaving up to 200 vulnerable patients without support.

Among them was one patient who has been left struggling with debts, after financial advice promised to her by the hospital in Pond Street failed to materialise due to the severe staffing shortages.

The advisors offer guidance and support on managing finances after a transplant, which leaves many patients unable to work for up to three months.

The patient who spoke out, who wants to remain anonymous because she is still receiving care at the hospital, says she was urgently referred by a nurse to the advisers after undergoing a transplant in September.

But her repeated attempts to set an appointment with the clinic were met with silence.

When she did eventually get through a month later, she was told the service had been suspended to new referrals because of a huge backlog, leaving many vulnerable patients without support at a crucial stage of recovery.

She said: “I have been left hanging, not knowing what is going to happen.

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“It was really important for me to see them. In my job I don’t get sick or holiday pay or anything like that because I get paid by the hour.

“I don’t have much money and bills are stacking up, but I don’t know what help is on offer.”

The patient has been left reliant on hand-outs from her family to stay afloat.

But she may have to return to work just six weeks after her gruelling surgery, and a month earlier than planned, because of her financial problems.

“I have been waiting for well over a month,” she said.

“I was advised to take three months off work but I am going to ask my doctor if I can go back now.

“I don’t know how they can get away with it. They are meant to be providing a very important service, but they have left the department empty and vulnerable people without support.

“I am disillusioned with the whole lot of them. I have been left really angry, and that is a real waste of my energy right now.”

A Royal Free Hospital spokesman said: “We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused due to the temporary suspension of the renal social work service.

“Following advice from an external consultant, the Royal Free decided it was unsafe to continue because of staff absences.

“Due to the specialist knowledge and skills required, the service was not able to continue with temporary staff.

“We wrote to every patient affected by the temporary suspension in September.

“The service is still suspended, but is regularly reviewed. We hope to be able to resume a safe service shortly.”