Hospital suspends after-care because all the staff are sick

A hospital service for kidney transplant patients has been suspended because the staff all called in sick.

Up to 200 people have been left without support at the Royal Free in Hampstead because of the absences.

The department offers post-operative emotional support and financial advice to patients who are unable to work for months following surgery.

Among them was one patient who has been left struggling with debts after advice promised to her by the hospital failed to materialise during the severe staffing shortages.

The woman, who wants to remain anonymous because she is still receiving care at the hospital, said she was referred to one of the four advisers after undergoing a transplant in September. She repeatedly attempted to set up an appointment with the clinic, to no avail.

When she did get through, she was told the department, which offers advice on benefits and housing as well as emotional support, had been suspended because of a huge backlog, leaving vulnerable patients without support at a crucial stage of recovery.

She said: “I have been left hanging, not knowing what is going to happen. It was really important for me to see them. In my job I don’t get sick or holiday pay. I don’t have much money and bills are stacking up.”

A Royal Free Hospital spokesman said: “We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused by the temporary suspension of the renal social work service. Because of the specialist knowledge required, the service was not able to continue.” He added that patients were given contact details of organisations providing a similar service.