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James Bell: Extended visiting times for relatives to provide untrained care

By Principal Lawyer, Clinical Negligence

The head of the RCN, Dr Peter Carter has called for visiting hours to be extended to enable the relatives of elderly patients to assist with feeding, toilet visits and washing - was a request that the Patients Association described as “scandalous”. On the talk radio show I listened to last night the public were clearly shocked by the idea that they should undertake care of their loved one whilst they were in hospital. Although this was a biased sample, caller after caller phoned in to describe how nurses ignored patients and sat around discussing their social life instead of helping with care issues.
The view from relatives was not that nurses were too busy but that they felt this type of work was beneath them.As well as moral questions, legal questions also arise. Getting a relative to the toilet sounds straightforward but myself and the rest of the clinical negligence team have all acted on cases where patients have been dropped during transfers from bed to wheelchair and vice versa by trained carers. The injuries sustained have led to six figures payouts by the NHS.The idea that we must then rely on our relatives to look after us in hospital is a shocking one. The idea that we cannot afford the staff to do this work is also a fallacy. The money was there to pay IT contractors their £12 billion for an IT system that didn't work - The billions are there to pay off shore private equity funds to run our shiny new PFI hospitals - strangely the money is not there and everyone is “too busy” when it's lunchtime and your gran needs help with her soup.James Bell is a Partner in the Russell Jones & Walker clinical negligence team. If you or a member of your family have a clinical negligence enquiry please call our expert clinical negligence solicitors on 0800 916 9049, fill in our short online claim form or email and one of our specialist clinical negligence team will be in touch.