Daughter ‘feels bad for using heating at home’ as her dad, 81, battles cancer on ‘freezing cold’ BRI ward

Steph says she feels guilty when using the heating at home thinking of her dad in the freezing cold ward

A daughter worried for her 81-year-old dad who is battling cancer on an end-of-life ward at the Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI) is appealing for heater and radiator donations to stop patients ‘freezing to death’.

Steph Cole’s dad, Colin, has been in hospital for eight weeks and recently discovered his illness was terminal. He was transferred to another ward as his level of care was lowered and staff prepared for him to spend his remaining weeks at home. When visiting the ward, Steph was shocked to find it had a single radiator, which was sitting in a pool of water and did not work.

She told Bristol World: “As soon as we arrived in his new ward I thought ‘blimey, it’s freezing in here’ and asked a nurse if there was heating, to which she replied ‘no’.

“The single radiator was next to my dad’s bed and I noticed it was in a pool of water with electrical wires exposed, this, and the fact my dad is prone to falls meant I had to report it to health and safety who had it taken away. I felt bad because I know how stretched the staff is but the patients need to be safe.

Mrs Cole spent decades working for the NHS before leaving to become a senior advisor for Bupa, often dealing with health and safety concerns. She describes her father’s current ward as ‘a portacabin’ and likened it to living in a caravan with no heating.

She continued: “On this particular wing of the ward, there are six other patients - all end of life waiting for care packages to go home. Aside from my dad, they are all bed-bound and staff are just piling on blankets to help keep them warm but it isn’t working. I haven’t slept all week because of this, at home I feel guilty putting on the heating thinking of my poor dad being cold in that ward with the others freezing to death.

“My dad told me he spent the night in the ward’s day room because it’s the only warm spot, he didn’t sleep but he sat there trying to get comfortable the whole night.”

Temperatures have reached as low as -9° in Bristol this week. Steph has launched an appeal to secure heaters or radiators which can be used in the ward to help the patients after hospital staff told her it may be a while before they can provide heating in the ward.

Bristol Harbour froze overnight due to the low temperatures.
Bristol Harbour froze overnight due to the low temperatures.
Bristol Harbour froze overnight due to the low temperatures.

She explained: “I’ve reached out on Facebook to help warm up the ward. It has to be electric radiators and new heaters to be used - it has to be safe. I have managed to secure two already and will soon contact the hospital to make sure they are okay to use.

“A cancer diagnosis was the last thing I expected with my dad and still haven’t come to terms with that so having to deal with this is getting to me. Things will be made tougher by the nurses' strikes, my dad has early dementia, and older patients might not feel comfortable with a new nurse.”

A spokesperson for Bristol BRI confirmed the ward had recently had issues with its heating system but that a back-up generator was in place.

They said: “It is only a small section, a bay, of the ward which is affected by the cold at the moment and our staff have put in five temporary heaters across the ward to keep its patients comfortable and warm.”

To contact Steph and support her donation, email [email protected]