I am all too used to hearing stories of elderly relatives poorly treated in hospital. So this rather shocking report from the Health Service Ombudsman does not surprise me. The Ombudsman’s harrowing tales of people ‘forgotten’ in a waiting room, not being fed even though unable to feed themselves and falling sound sadly familiar.
It would be too easy to blame NHS staff. The care services Minister sees the problem as poor management. He thinks that leadership by frontline staff is needed to drive out poor practice. But one major factor is staff shortages and £20bn NHS savings is bound to reduce the level of care further.
With the elderly comprising 75% of patients this is a real problem. I see the impact of poor care on people’s lives. Some of most common problems are people developing pressure sores– which are almost always preventable with proper nursing care – falls and medication errors.
I am dealing with a number of cases for people who spent the last months of their life in pain, battling infection, as a result of pressure sores. For some they have even led to serious disability and in one case an above-knee amputation.
The government thinks things may improve with an initiative by the Care Quality Commission next month. However with that body falling victim to the cuts it is hard to see how things are going to change.
Paul Sankey is a solicitor specialising in clinical negligence.
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