Bone surgery

Views and experiences of healthcare from people who had shoulder surgery

Most people we interviewed were very happy with the care they got from doctors, nurses and physiotherapists. The process of being referred to hospital by a GP was often the most difficult part, particularly if it felt slow, though people were usually pleased with the care they were given once they were in the hospital system. Some people were given injections and/or physiotherapy before they were referred to hospital for x-rays and other tests to see if they were eligible for surgery. This was sometimes a frustrating time because they were in pain and the treatments they were trying (painkillers, physiotherapy and/or cortisone injections) did not ease it.
Nicola was prescribed various painkillers by her GP when her shoulder first started hurting but they did little to ease the pain. She then had physiotherapy and two cortisone injections. The first injection eased the pain for about 6 months but the second helped only for around 2 months. It was at this stage that surgery was discussed. She’d been in pain for over a year.
Olive took painkillers and had injections. She went back and forth to the GP and hospital over several months. She recalled that being referred was a problem but, once referred, the care was good and everything about the surgery was explained to her:
A few people talked about telephone consultations they’d had before they were referred to hospital by their local doctor. These consultations aimed to assess whether a hospital appointment would be appropriate or other courses of action. Sue had a phone consultation set up but ended up having to chase it up when no one called her. Everything ‘went smoothly and very quickly’, though, once she started having hospital appointments.
Ken had to wait over 3 months to get a hospital appointment after being referred by his GP, which was ‘annoying’. Once he started having appointments, though, he had ‘no complaints whatsoever’ about the care he was given:
Pre-operative assessment

When participants knew they were eligible for surgery – having tried other treatments first and after x-rays had identified a problem – the next appointment was usually the pre-operative assessment. At this appointment routine medical tests are carried out, including blood tests, a urine test and an ECG to record the electrical activity of the heart.
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This video explains more about the pre-operative assessment.

Many people praised the information they were given and said that the pre-op assessment was well organised and well structured. Mary described it as a ‘roundabout’ of seeing different health professionals and that it was ‘fantastic’.
Most people were happy with the tests and information given at the pre-op assessment. There was usually little waiting around as participants had one test after another. Margaret, though, ended up waiting and felt disappointed, describing the appointment as ‘horrendous’:
In hospital

Most people we spoke to were pleased with the care they’d been given in hospital by health professionals, including nurses, physios, consultants and anaesthetists. Jasmine said they were supportive and caring, Beverley that she had ‘good care’, and Olive that she recovered so well that she had no need to see the professionals again. Beverley, like a few other people, noted that the timing of tests and surgery went well and there were no delays.
One woman said she had ‘excellent care’ that she ‘couldn’t fault’. All the professionals were good and she was particularly ‘impressed’ with the surgeon and registrar who explained everything she needed to know about the operation. The ward care was also good and the hospital was clean. David felt that his healthcare had been ‘excellent’ and the hospital was ‘spotless’. He said he’d been ‘very impressed’ despite the negative publicity the National Health Service often gets. Mary commented that both doctors she saw on the day of the operation were professional and friendly, and that one of them was light-hearted which was ‘what you want on the morning. You’re a little bit anxious or whatever about what’s going to happen during the day. So being very smiley and friendly was really just what was needed.’ For Wayne, the care was ‘gold star all the way....10 out of 10’.
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Alan praised the staff he saw at the pre-op assessment and later in hospital. He’d never had an operation before but was reassured by his mother-in-law that he had nothing to worry about – she went in for a knee operation on the same day:
Nicola said the staff were all good and treated her as an equal. She felt ‘like an actual person and not just a number’:
Rosemary was disappointed with a nurse who she felt discharged her even though she was feeling dizzy and lightheaded. Patients are not usually discharged if they are unsteady or unwell and so, if they are concerned, they should inform the nursing staff that they would like to see the surgical team or anaesthetist again. One woman felt that a nurse had been ‘dismissive’ when her husband asked how long the operation would be as he’d be waiting for her during this time. Other than that, though, she was ‘very, very impressed’ with the care and ‘can’t fault it at all’.
Patricia had a very difficult time after surgery and was disappointed with it and the amount of time it was taking to get a physiotherapy appointment. She still had a lot of pain and limited arm movement:

Participants went home the same day as having surgery and had no need to contact the hospital again, only going back for a routine follow-up appointment. A telephone number was often provided in case there were problems. Some people would have liked more information on managing at home in the early stages of recovery, while others would have liked a physiotherapy appointment sooner after surgery so they could find out if they could progress to more challenging exercises. Most people were pleased to have been given a booklet of exercises and the TEPI website address so they could keep checking that they were doing the exercises correctly.
The follow-up appointment

Many people talked about the follow-up appointment, which was often 6 weeks after surgery, and what happened at it (see ‘The follow-up appointment for shoulder surgery’).
See our resources for more information. 

Last reviewed August 2018.

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