Elderly Article By SOPHIE BORLAND

UPDATED: 10:31 GMT, 13 October 2011

Is this what we get for spending MORE on the NHS than ever before? Shameful neglect of the elderly in ONE FIFTH of our hospitals breaks the law, says watchdog

  • Inspectors saw frail patients rattling their bedrails or banging on water jugs to try to attract the attention of staff
  • Care so poor in 20 hospitals that patients denied ‘the basics in life’ – eating drinking and going to the toilet
  • Inspection boss: ‘some examples truly appalling and truly shocking’
  • Medical staff ‘putting paperwork over people’
  • Nurses ignore orders to give drips to dehydrated patient

One in five hospitals is breaking the law in its level of neglect of the elderly, a damning report revealed yesterday.

The Care Quality Commission found at least 20 hospitals where care was so poor that patients were denied ‘the basics in life’ – eating, drinking and going to the toilet.

This was a fifth of the hospitals investigated by the Government watchdog. It warned that staff in some NHS trusts were ‘putting paperwork over people’.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley insisted the Government’s planned changes to the NHS will help address many of the problems.



The watchdog visited 100 hospitals between March and June to check they were meeting the basic standards required by law, which ensure that elderly patients are properly fed and treated with dignity (file picture)

On some wards inspectors saw frail patients rattling their bedrails or banging on water jugs to try to attract the attention of staff.

On others, nurses had ignored doctors’ instructions to put dehydrated patients on drips and abandoned them without fluids.

The watchdog visited 100 hospitals between March and June to check they were meeting the basic standards required by law, which ensure that elderly patients are properly fed and treated with dignity.

The inspections were partly triggered by a campaign by the Daily Mail and the Patients Association which exposed the appalling standards of care on some wards.




Today the CQC’s director of operations Amanda Sherlock told the BBC’s Today programme: ‘Some of the examples of poor care our inspectors identified are truly appalling and truly shocking and there should be no excuse from the trust boards, from nurses and doctors and care assistants providing care.

‘Older people have a right to expect basic standards of dignity and nutrition. Care should not be a lottery.’

Inspectors monitored whether nursing staff were helping frail patients eat their meals and making sure they had enough water throughout the day.

They also checked whether nurses responded to patients’ calls for help, assisted them to the toilet or helped move them to prevent bedsores.

Last week the watchdog announced it had found that 49 hospitals, nearly half, were not doing enough to ensure patients did not go hungry or thirsty.

Yesterday it unveiled its full report, which revealed that in 20 NHS trusts, the standard of nursing care was so poor it was in breach of the Health and Social Care Act 2008.




Named and shamed: Nurses at the James Paget Hospital, in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, (left) defied orders to give dehydrated patients drips, while inspectors found some patients at Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, Worcestershire, (right) had not been given anything to drink for more than ten hours

Inspectors found that in many hospitals the elderly were routinely forced to undergo the indignity of using commodes next to their beds because staff were too busy to take them to the toilet.

They also found that at meal times, nursing staff were so preoccupied giving patients medicines they forgot to feed them and trays were cleared away untouched.

At Alexandra Hospital in Worcester, they found some patients had not been given anything to drink for more than ten hours.

Doctors resorted to putting some patients on drips or prescribing them drinking water in their notes to ensure they did not become severely dehydrated.

Dame Jo Williams, chairman of the watchdog, urged NHS trusts not to put ‘paperwork over people’.

‘Time and time again, we found cases where patients were treated by staff in a way that stripped them of their dignity and respect,’ she said.

‘People were spoken over, and not spoken to; people were left without call bells, ignored for hours on end, or not given assistance to do the basics of life – to  eat, drink, or go to the toilet.’

Mr Lansley told the Today programme: ‘The CQC and many people across the NHS themselves felt that the target approach, the top-down target approach meant that not only they as doctors and nurses looking after patients but also the patients themselves, felt they were all on some kind of production line. And that is, nursing care, healthcare is not like that.’

‘People should be treated as individuals, they have individual needs; it’s why right at the forefront of the process of modernising and improving quality in the NHS is the principle of patients having a greater sense of information and control of their care.

‘If patients are given information, are treated as individuals, then they are much more likely also to feel that they can raise problems when they occur and get response to their needs.’



Grandmother Jean Dawson (pictured, right) went into hospital in to have a thigh fracture fixed. But the 84-year-old died seven weeks later after losing two stones in weight.

Her daughters Julie and Lynne were appalled by her care as they watched their mother waste away at Furness Hospital, Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.

Julie Jones, 58, who is a nurse and has two children, said: ‘She was neglected in every way.

‘She was difficult to look after because she had severe vascular dementia but that’s no excuse, she wasn’t fed or washed, it was horrendous. We felt increasing despair as she was slipping away. 

‘We wanted to share some quality time with her but it was spent on nagging and complaining as we tried to get the staff to look after her.’

Mrs Dawson weighed just 4st 6lb when she died in April 2009.

The family has received a ‘partial’ apology for her care.

‘I hope she didn’t know what was happening to her,’ said Mrs Jones. ‘We don’t want anyone else’s mother to go through the same ordeal.’


The Mail’s campaign highlighted examples of elderly patients left screaming in agony, ignored by nurses who refused to give them painkillers.

Distraught relatives spoke of how they had turned up on wards to find their loved ones desperately thirsty and in some cases left for hours on a hospital bed without a mattress.

The 20 hospitals found to be breaking the law are being visited again to ensure they are making improvements. If they are still deemed to be failing, the relevant wards could be shut and the hospital fined.

The CQC has already closed one ward at Sandwell General Hospital, Birmingham, since its follow-up inspection.

And James Paget Hospital in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, has been given a final warning. Nursing staff had ignored doctors’ orders to put dehydrated patients on drips. Inspectors also came across a nurse telling off a frail patient merely for ringing a call bell.

Michael Marler, from Lowestoft, Suffolk, made a formal complaint over the way his wife Monica was treated at the hospital.


Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: ‘We must never lose sight of the fact that the most important people in the NHS are its patients’

She was admitted having not eaten for eight weeks.

But Mr Marler said the disabled Alzheimer’s sufferer, who couldn’t feed herself, was left hungry for four days after meals were simply left in front of her.

Mr Marler told the BBC’s Today programme: ‘I tried to bring her food and Horlicks for some nourishment myself.

‘But there were eight nurses on the ward, seven working on admin and one who seemed to run around doing everything else.

‘I told them I was going to sue the hospital for negligence because my wife wasn’t being treated properly, after all she was more or less on her own.

‘Of course three nurses and two doctors came after that.

‘I was very perturbed about that because I has sent her to hospital for one reason only and that was to get some substance down her because she had had no food for eight weeks.

‘I was amazed at the lack of attention and care for the patients.’

The hospital apologised and promised to investigate the care the Alzheimer’s sufferer received.

Campaigners also claimed that at least 12,000 fewer patients would die each year if the NHS matched the standards of other European countries.

Despite billions of pounds poured into the Health Service since 1999, there has been no ‘discernible’ effect on death rates, according to an analysis by the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

It said more competition would produce better results for patients – as it has elsewhere – along with less interference from politicians.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the charity felt ‘overwhelmed with these dreadful and deeply depressing inquiries’ into hospital care. She said that in the last few months the charity’s helpline had seen a sudden surge of calls from relatives regarding appalling standards.

● The Coalition yesterday fought off an attempt to derail its controversial NHS reforms in the House of Lords.

Ministers feared that if an amendment had been passed, the Bill would not have been able to clear Parliament by the end of the session next spring, and so would have fallen.

source : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2048460/NHS-health-care-Neglect-elderly-ONE-FIFTH-hospitals-breaks-law.html

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