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Page last updated at 21:50 GMT, Wednesday, 20 July 2005 22:50 UK

Undercover nurse

Margaret Haywood
Undercover nurse
Wednesday 20 July 2005
21:00 BST, BBC One
Part two of a Panorama two-part special undercover in Britain's Hospitals

During a three month undercover investigation, a nurse working for Panorama has secretly recorded her experience working on an acute medical ward in a failing hospital. Most of the patients are elderly and some are dying.

Panorama's investigation is a stark portrayal of the indignities faced by elderly people as they reach the end of their days in a major British hospital.

• Patients in excruciating pain from terminal cancer because their pain relief drugs were not being administered properly.

• Patients desperate to use the toilet having to wait for lengthy periods while nurses fail to respond to their calls for help.

• Nurses eating patients food in the kitchen whilst some patients who were unable to feed themselves went hungry.

• And how patients can die alone and unnoticed.

Across the country, two thirds of patients cared for in hospital wards are over the age of 65. And with an ageing population, that figure could rise. The number of people aged over 65 has doubled in the last 70 years, and between 1995 and 2025 the number of people aged over 80 is set to increase by almost half.

National Director for Older People's Services - Prof Ian Philp - was appointed with a brief to stamp out ageism in the NHS, and to implement new standards of care for older people. And the government claims it is making progress towards improving standards of care in the NHS - long accused of neglecting the needs of older people, and of failing to treat them with respect and dignity.

When shown some of the filmed evidence gathered by Panorama's undercover nurse the chief executive of the hospital trust told Panorama that: "Clearly they are very disturbing images and I was shocked to see them. The first thing I would like to do is to apologise on behalf of the Trust to those patients and their relatives for those lapses in quality of care that were uncovered at that time."

"We received a number of complaints in the autumn of last year, in November and December, and that triggered an internal investigation into the ward which was done by our nursing directorate in partnership with our patient and public involvement forum to understand what the problems were. That led to a whole series of changes on the ward culminating in a new ward manager being appointed in March, and I'm pleased to say that things are now improved significantly since that time."

But Panorama reveals that serious problems still remained on the ward as late as May 2005.

Undercover Nurse follows on from the broadcast of A Carer's Story in 2003, which generated nearly one thousand calls, letters and emails. Some of these callers raised concerns about hospital care for the elderly.

On investigating further we found that the hospital which featured in some of these concerns had itself also received complaints from patients and their families. Panorama felt that undercover filming was the only way to discover what was really happening.

Production team:
Reporter: Sarah Barclay
Producer: Liz Bloor
Second Chair Louise Norman
Assistant Producers: Shabnam Grewal, Alison Priestley, Janette Ballard, Eleanor Plowden
Researcher: Amelia Vale
Deputy Editors: Andrew Bell, Frank Simmonds
Editor: Mike Robinson

video and audio news
See footage of the nurse's undercover filming


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