‘Cruel and Neglectful’ Care of One Million NHS Patients Exposed

Daily News Article   —   Posted on August 27, 2009

Note:  This article is from the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph.

(by Rebecca Smith, Medical Editor, Telegraph.co.uk) — In the last six years, the [British] Patients Association claims hundreds of thousands [of Britons] have suffered from poor standards of nursing, often with ‘neglectful, demeaning, painful and sometimes downright cruel’ treatment.

The [non-profit] 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 [report] 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-time occurence], there are repeated examples they have uncovered of the same appalling standards throughout the NHS [England’s government-run National Health Service].

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 Patients Association] 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 [Patients Association] 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 [Patients Association] released the [report] 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.”

Chris Beasley, Chief Nursing Officer at the Department of Health said the care in the cases highlighted by the PA was “simply unacceptable”.

She added: “It is important to note this is not representative of the picture across the NHS.

“The NHS treats millions of people every day and the vast majority of patients experience good quality, safe and effective care – the Care Quality Commission’s recent patient experience survey shows that 93 percent of patients rate their overall care as good or excellent.

“We will shortly be publishing complaints data on the NHS Choices website and expect trusts to publish the number of complaints they receive, setting out how these are successfully resolved.”

Information appearing on telegraph.co.uk is the copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited and must not be reproduced in any medium without licence. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from the Telegraph. Visit the website at telegraph.co.uk.

Questions

1. How many people have received inadequate medical care in Great Britain, according to a report just released by the Patients’ Association?

2. What types of poor treatment did the Patients’ Association chronicle in thier report?

3. What is the most frequent complaint made against hospitals by patients regarding the care they received?

4. What is the purpose of the Patients’ Association report? (see para. 20)

5. What is the Patients’ Association asking the NHS (British government) to do about this problem? (see para. 5)

6. How many people are treated by the NHS each year? What percentage of patients consistently rate their care as poor?

7. What type of patients most often receive this unacceptable care? (see para. 16)

8. In addition to reporting on the findings of the Patients’ Association on the horrific care experienced by some under the NHS, Ms. Smith interviewed representatives from the government side. What do you think of the reaction/response of each to the Patients’ Association report?
a) Dr. Peter Carter, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing (para. 24-27)
b) Ms. Barbara Young, Chairman of the government’s Care Quality Commission (para. 28-32)
c) Ms. Chris Beasley, Chief Nursing Officer at the Department of Health (para. 33-36)


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Background

The NHS (National Health Service) is the British Health Care system.  Under this system, the British government runs the hospitals, and doctors, nursese and medical workers are employees of the government.  Health care is free to all in this system.  This is the type of system President Obama and the Democratic controlled congress are working toward eventually creating in the U.S.  Many Americans are opposed to implementing a system where the government will take control of their health care.

Resources

Read about Enland’s Patients Association at patients-association.com/About-Us.

Read the Patients Association report in its entirety at patients-association.com/DBIMGS/file/Patients%20not%20numbers,%20people%20not%20statistics.pdf.