Sunday, October 14, 2007

The dirty truth on the wards in UK hospitals.

The dirty truth on the wards | UK News | The Observer

This is a very serious story that deals with neglect within English hospitals, and if NSW and ACT hospitals do not lift their game then we will be hearing similar distressing reports in Australia. This report is a follow-up to the story that has been hitting the headlines regarding the deaths of more than 90 people that has been caused by insanitary conditions in UK hospitals. The main thrust of this story is that it is the elderly who are suffering at the hands of incompetent staff who are too busy to look after those who are least able to look after themselves.

Dr Jackie Morris, chair of the society's policy group, lists practices which she says most people would find it hard to believe hospital chief executives still allow. Patients who need the toilet are being told to wait maybe for an hour or more. Patients can often hear a person who is forced to use a commode.

'It's a fundamental part of dignity, that you should be able to relieve yourself in privacy,' said Morris. 'But you often see this vicious cycle happening, where patients who may be recovering from an operation are not taken to the loo, but instead given a commode or even told to go in their pants.

'That can lead to pressure sores, which are very painful, but it can also do something else - patients begin refusing to eat or drink because they become very scared of needing the toilet, and then they can start to go downhill pretty quickly.'

There is one case that is highlighted in this news feature, that of an elderly Anglican cleric who went to hospital because of a bump on his head. He ended up on one of the worst wards in the hospital. He died before his family could get him into a private hosptial, probably due to the fact that he was treated with such indignity:

The indignity suffered by some patients can be shocking. Jackie Brindle watched her father-in-law's health decline rapidly when he was admitted to hospital in Lancaster. The family believe this was directly due to what they say was a humiliating level of neglect.

The Rev John Brindle, 86, a former Church of England vicar, was taken to hospital after suffering a knock to the head. 'He was admitted for tests, but he was still healthy, and in fact, he had never been into hospital in his life,' his daughter-in-law said. 'He was put onto a ward where the care was appalling, and the nurse who dealt with him was actually quite intimidating.

'I came in one day to find him sitting in his room, completely naked apart from the incontinence pads on him. His feet were blue with cold.

'I quickly got him dressed and asked what had happened. One of the nurses told me that it was against health and safety rules to dress him, because he was resisting them. I was so shocked I could barely speak.

'I also asked why he wasn't being taken to the toilet, instead of being left in pads. The nurse looked at me, and said, "Oh no, he's incontinent", as if I was stupid not to realise. But I know he was not so before he went onto that ward.'

The family then made efforts to have him moved to a private hospital, but he died before they could organise it. 'He seemed to have given up completely. This man, who was proud and private, was treated like a child, like a no-hoper.'

The Brindles put in a full complaint to the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust, where he was treated, in June. Peter Dyer, medical director of the trust, said that they were taking the concerns raised extremely seriously and would respond within a week. 'We are nearing completion of a very thorough and lengthy investigation into the allegations which included interviewing a large number of staff.'

Could it be that the hospital system is suffering from the decay associated with the dependance upon government funding? The kind of neglect and the actions that have been reported in this story suggest that there are some hospitals in the public system in the UK where there is a lack of personal responsibility in doing the task required by nursing staff. I fear that the same could happen here in Australia and there are reports popping up concerning people who are left waiting in the Emergency Department who have either died, or suffered a miscarriage. There are other horror stories that are emerging regarding the lack of due care of hospital patients, especially with maternity patients. Can we continue to afford a government run health system where people are relying upon going to the Emergency Department instead of the local GP for minor matters? If anything the story that is emerging in the UK is reason enough to be against the total public funding of hospitals. If one has a population (or at least a portion of the population) who refuse to have private health insurance, and who have decided to be leeches upon the public health system, and the welfare system, then everyone else suffers as the public hospital system begins to fail because of a lack of due diligence in the carrying out of routine ward tasks.

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