Cruel and neglectful care of one million NHS patients exposed
In the last six years, the Patients Association claims hundreds of thousands have suffered from poor standards of nursing, often with ‘neglectful, demeaning, painful and sometimes downright cruel’ treatment.
The charity has disclosed a horrifying catalogue of elderly people left in pain, in soiled bed clothes, denied adequate food and drink, and suffering from repeatedly cancelled operations, missed diagnoses and dismissive staff.
The Patients Association said the dossier proves that while the scale of the scandal at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust – where up to 1,200 people died through failings in urgent care – was a one off, there are repeated examples they have uncovered of the same appalling standards throughout the NHS.
While the criticisms cover all aspects of hospital care, the treatment and attitude of nurses stands out as a repeated theme across almost all of the cases.
They have called on Government and the Care Quality Commission to conduct an urgent review of standards of basic hospital care and to enforce stricter supervision and regulation.
Claire Rayner, President of the Patients Association and a former nurse, said:“For far too long now, the Patients Association has been receiving calls on our helpline from people wanting to talk about the dreadful, neglectful, demeaning, painful and sometimes downright cruel treatment their elderly relatives had experienced at the hands of NHS nurses.
“I am sickened by what has happened to some part of my profession of which I was so proud. These bad, cruel nurses may be – probably are – a tiny proportion of the nursing work force, but even if they are only one or two percent of the whole they should be identified and struck off the Register.”
The charity has published a selection of personal accounts from hundreds of relatives of patients, most of whom died, following their care in NHS hospitals.
They cite patient surveys which show the vast majority of patients highly rate their NHS care – but, with some ten million treated a year, even a small percentage means hundreds of thousands have suffered.
Ms Rayner said it was by “sad coincidence” that she trained as a nurse with one of the patients who had “suffered so much”.
She went on: “I know that she, like me, was horrified by the appalling care she had before she died. We both came from a generation of nurses who were trained at the bedside and in whom the core values of nursing were deeply inculcated.”
Katherine Murphy, Director of the Patients Association, said “Whilst Mid Staffordshire may have been an anomaly in terms of scale the PA knew the kinds of appalling treatment given there could be found across the NHS. This report removes any doubt and makes this clear to all. Two of the accounts come from Stafford, and they sadly fail to stand out from the others.
“These accounts tell the story of the two percent of patients that consistently rate their care as poor (in NHS patient surveys). If this was extrapolated to the whole of the NHS from 2002 to 2008 it would equate to over one million patients. Very often these are the most vulnerable elderly and terminally ill patients. It’s a sad indictment of the care they receive.”
The Patients Association said one hospital had threatened it with legal action if it chose to publish the material.
Pamela Goddard, a piano teacher from Bletchingley, in Surrey, was 82 and suffering with cancer but was left in her own excrement and her condition deteriorated due to her bed sores.
Florence Weston, from Sedgley in the West Midlands, died aged 85 and had to remain without food or water for several days as her hip operation was repeated cancelled.
The charity released the dossier to highlight the poor care which a minority of patients in the NHS are subjected to.
Ms Murphy said the numbers rating care as poor came despite investment in the NHS doubling and the number of frontline nurses increasing by more than a quarter since 1996.
The personal stories were revealed to prevent their cases being ignored as only representing a small portion of patients.
The report said: “These are patients, not numbers. These are people, not statistics.”
Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said he was concerned that public confidence in the NHS could be undermined by the examples cited and it would affect morale in hardworking staff.
He said: “The level of care described by these families is completely unacceptable, and we will not condone nurses who behave in ways that are contrary to the principles and ethics of the profession.
“However we believe that the vast majority of nurses are decent, highly skilled individuals. This report is based on the two per cent of patients who feel that their care was unacceptable. Two per cent is too many but we are concerned that this might undermine the public’s confidence in the world-class care they can expect to receive from the NHS.”
Barbara Young, Chairman of the Care Quality Commission, the super-regulator, said: “It is absolutely right to highlight that standards of hospital care can vary from very good to poor.
“Many people are happy with the care they receive, but we also know that there are problems. I am in no doubt that many hospitals need to raise their game in this area.
“Where NHS trusts fail to meet the mark, we have tough new enforcement powers, ranging from warnings and fines to closure in extreme cases. We will not hesitate to use these powers when necessary to bring improvement.
“We will be asking NHS trusts and primary care trusts how they are ensuring that the needs of patients and their safety and dignity are kept at the heart of care.”