Page last updated at 16:55 GMT, Thursday, 27 August 2009 17:55 UK

Patient neglect: Family accounts

Health lobby group the Patients Association has published a report detailing 16 cases of neglect in hospitals.

While accepting that only a small percentage of patients are unhappy with their experiences, the association says its case studies are indicative of "appalling" standards offered to hundreds of sick people across the UK each year.

Here, in their own words, relatives of some of those patients describe their anger at the standards of nursing care they witnessed.


Leslie Kirk, 86, was a patient at Nottingham City Hospital in October 2007.

Leslie and Ron Kirk
Ron Kirk, left, described his father's time in hospital as a "nightmare"

His son, Ron, said: "At no time during my father's stay on the ward did we feel there was anyone who cared for patients enough.

"Toilets were not cleaned properly with faeces clearly left from several previous uses. My sister often had to clean them herself before she'd let my father use them.

"We had to bring in a blanket for him because he was cold in bed.

"At one point my father's personal alarm was taken away, making it difficult for him to get help from staff when suffering through the night from severe pain."

"One patient had fallen over several times struggling to get to the toilet on his own."

Caron Swinscoe, clinical lead for acute medicine at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: "The Trust has taken Mr Kirk's concerns extremely seriously and we have worked... to address the issues he has raised. We have been extremely disappointed with what Mr Kirk has told us. It is not a picture we generally recognise. We pride ourselves on continuing to reduce infection rates, improve cleanliness and maintain high levels of patient safety."


Mrs Goddard's son, Adrian, said she had beaten breast cancer several times over 40 years, only to die after a bedsore became infected during treatment at East Surrey Hospital (ESH) in October 2008.

Pamela Goddard
Pamela Goddard spent several months being treated for various complaints

"She was placed on a pressure-relieving mattress to help prevent the bed sore from worsening... it was broken and [the family] told staff this. We were simply told that they would try and get it fixed but this never happened.

"At home we had always made an effort to turn her regularly but this was rarely done at ESH. We were told that it took two nurses to turn someone, and two nurses were never available.

"We enquired about lifting equipment that might help... it was broken.

"She was often found in her own faeces and urine when [my brother] arrived. He would need to prompt staff to come and wash and change her."

Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust director of nursing, Mary Sexton, said: "We... are carrying out further investigations at the request of the family. The presence of pressure sores is associated with a twofold to fourfold increased risk of death but this is because pressure sores are a marker for underlying disease severity and other co-morbidities. Mrs Goddard was receiving complex treatment for a number of medical conditions from a number of healthcare organisations."


Mrs Weston, 85, was taken for surgery on her broken hip at Russells Hall Hospital, Dudley, West Midlands.

Florence Weston
Florence Weston's family say she was humiliated by nurses

Her son, Mike, said: "Despite us being told on a daily basis that she was on the list for surgery for that day, she was constantly removed to make way for other clinical priorities. She waited some five days after admittance for her operation.

"She was also told that, because of being unable to use the toilet facilities through being immobile, she should wet the bed. This was highly embarrassing for her.

"Even worse, on one occasion, a night nurse told her off for doing this severely enough to reduce her to tears and cause her to ask me if she could go home.

"I didn't feel there was any genuine acceptance that my mother could've been cared for better. This is probably happening to other families out there."

Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Paul Farenden said: "We have made many improvements to our services, one of which is our target for patients to receive surgery for fractured hip in less than 24 hours from admission. Over the last 12 months we have introduced several measures to improve access to hip fracture surgery including appointing a matron with experience in this field."


Mrs Hewlett was admitted to the rehabilitation unit at St Mark's Hospital, Maidenhead, Berkshire, in October 2005, having been treated elsewhere for a leg ulcer.

Oenone Hewlett
Mrs Hewlett suffered renal failure while in hospital

Her daughter Stephanie said: "We watched as she deteriorated at St Mark's Hospital and we felt the staff didn't take any notice as this happened.

"Sometimes several days went by without [staff taking] any records at all - this is especially so regarding food and drink intake, elimination and measures of her blood pressure and weight.

"This meant that as Oenone's condition deteriorated there was no recognition of her decline, and when her weight loss became critical, no action was taken.

"When she arrived at Wexham Accident and Emergency following her stay at St Marks, the doctor thought she must have been at home alone and neglecting herself. He couldn't understand how should could've become so dehydrated."

Berkshire East Primary Care Trust chief executive Dr Lise Llewellyn said: "At no point did the Healthcare Commission criticise the quality of care provided to this frail, elderly patient. The focus of the HCC's concerns was around record-keeping. Since this case we have introduced new protocols around the handling of patient notes."


Mrs Bailey, 86, spent around two months at Stafford Hospital. She needed 24-hour oxygen therapy but on one occasion her family had to shout for help when Mrs Bailey became unwell, having been left 30 minutes without supply, her daughter, Julie, said.

Bella Bailey
On one occasion, Mrs Bailey was left without oxygen

"The impression I got... was one of utter chaos at times," she said.

"Confused patients often wandered around semi-naked and some staff passed them by in the corridor without a care.

"Night time was often the busiest and noisiest. Staff squealed and giggled whilst patients tried to grab a bit of sleep in between their discomforts.

"Buzzers often rang for 40-50 minutes whilst patients waited for the commode then they sat for another 40 minutes waiting to be hauled back into bed.

"[One day] a health care assistant came to toilet her and on transferring her back to bed alone, she slipped and dropped her onto the bed landing her, on her back. It was common to see staff lifting patients into bed on their own, or trying to."

Eric Morton, interim chief executive of Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, said: "The Healthcare Commission investigation during 2008/9... reviewed care provided by the Trust between April 2005 and April 2008. Since that time, the quality of care delivered to our patients has improved as a result of significant investment of £5.9m including additional clinical and front line staff since April 2008."


Mr Milner died on the palliative care ward at Sheffield's Northern General Hospital, where his family claim some staff refused to top-up his pain relief.

Thomas Milner
On one occasion, Mr Milner lay pulling at the bedsheets, tears in his eyes

His daughter, Janet Brooks, said: "I didn't understand why nurses had been able to give him [pain] relief through the night but now suddenly we had to wait for the doctor's ward round.

"[One] nurse also failed to provide incontinence pads, as had been done during the evening and night before.

"He was bleeding rectally and he ended up lying in urine and blood. He also wet the floor and my elderly mother wiped this up while the nurse and assistant nurse watched on and did nothing to help.

"They did not even bring a mop and bucket afterwards to disinfect the floor."

Dr David Throssell, deputy medical director at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said "The Healthcare Commission found that staff acted appropriately. Mr Milner indicated he was not in pain and therefore the doctor agreed with the nurse that further medication was not required. There needs to be a careful balance between making the patient comfortable and giving too much medication."

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