Page last updated at 06:32 GMT, Thursday, 27 August 2009 07:32 UK

Basic care 'lacking' in hospitals

Ron Kirk: 'We became horrified by the standard of nursing'

A patient lobby group is demanding an urgent review of basic hospital care after highlighting accounts of "appalling" NHS standards.

The Patients Association highlighted 16 cases in England where people, often the elderly, were left lying in faeces and urine and were not helped to eat.

The group's president Claire Rayner, an ex-nurse, called for "bad, cruel nurses" to be struck off.

The government said the cases were unacceptable but not representative.

The latest national survey of patients by the health regulator showed that nine in 10 rated their care as excellent or good - with just 2% saying it had been poor.

The Patients Association acknowledged the majority were happy.

But it pointed out the 2% figure had not changed over the last six years and still represented thousands of patients.

The NHS treats millions of people every day and the vast majority of patients experience good quality, safe and effective care
Chris Beasley
Government chief nursing officer

It called on the NHS regulator to intervene, saying the current system which relies on self-assessment, was not adequate.

The group said the accounts used in the report were reviewed critically before publication as it was aware complaints do "not necessarily reflect the reality".

It stressed that nearly all the cases were concerned not about treatment, but basic nursing and domiciliary care.

Earlier this year, a report from the Healthcare Commission - now replaced as regulator by the Care Quality Commission - detailed grave lapses in standards of care at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust.

The Patients Association said its report showed that appalling standards were more widespread than just at that trust.

Relatives described how they found their loved ones dehydrated or lying in faeces, blood and urine, and told of problems in getting help from nurses.

They also told how patients were left with sandwiches or drinks in packaging which they could not open.

Plenty of money has been thrown at the NHS, now it's time to start using it effectively
Steve Nichols, Norwich

Ron Kirk said his father, Leslie, was admitted to hospital in October 2007 having suffered a stroke, but his treatment at the hands of some nurses amounted to cruelty.

His father had been fitted with the wrong catheter, leaving him in pain, but nurses took away his bedside alarm because they thought he was "pressing it too often", Mr Kirk said.


Claire Rayner: 'Real accountability is necessary'

Claire Rayner said: "I am sickened by what has happened to some part of my profession of which I was so proud. These bad, cruel nurses may be - probably are - a tiny proportion of the nursing workforce, but even if they are only one or two per cent of the whole they should be identified and struck off the Register."

Government chief nursing officer Chris Beasley said: "All patients deserve the highest quality of care from the NHS and the poor care received in these cases is simply unacceptable."

But she said this was not representative of the picture across the NHS.

"The NHS treats millions of people every day and the vast majority of patients experience good quality, safe and effective care."

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said it would not condone nurses who behave in ways "that are contrary to the principles and ethics of the profession".

But he added he was concerned that highlighting a small number of cases "might undermine the public's confidence in the world-class care they can expect to receive from the NHS".

And he added: "Furthermore it could also dampen the morale of the millions of staff who work tirelessly to help their patients."

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