A report by the Patients Association tells us what many of us sadly know already: which is that alongside some outstanding medical care are some unacceptable gaps where patients are neglected.
The Patients Association identified 16 cases of appalling care – patients left starving or thirsty, in pain, lying in urine or worse because it was easier to change the sheets than help them to the toilet. In one case a patient was told to eat ice cream with his fingers rather than find him a spoon – and more or less the same happened to one of my elderly relatives in hospital.
I am often consulted by people who have seen their relatives – particularly the elderly and most vulnerable – neglected. The sort of stories people tell are of patients whose food is taken away uneaten because there was no one to help them eat it and people unable to get to the toilet in time because 15 minutes or more goes by with no one responding to their call for help. There are sometimes stories of rudeness or rough handling. In some of the worst cases patients have suffered bed sores from poor nursing care. In one case an elderly man eventually underwent an above-knee amputation as a result of pressure ulcers.
The Patients Association says ‘long-term cultural change’ is needed. The NHS Confederation blames lack of leadership. The root problems are probably funding shortages leading to fewer nurses, poor management and at times of lack of compassion on the part of a few staff.
It is disappointing that as we read of significant improvements in medical treatment – there is news this week of improved outcomes for cancer patients – we also read of unnecessary failings in basic care. One might have thought that it was much harder to make progress in the battle against cancer than in the fight for good basic care. The irony is that it seems not.Paul Sankey is a solicitor specialising in clinical negligence. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our specialist clinical negligence team will be in touch.