Patients Association Report

9 November 2011, 06:50

Today's Patients Association report highlights stories from around England reported to its helpline.

Joyce Jones, 82, was admitted to the Royal Sussex County Hospital.

During her time in hospital she lost a stone in weight. Her daughter, Liz Owen, said nurses did not record her mother's fluid levels and simple tasks, such as washing, were neglected.

She said: ``My mother is Joyce Jones, she is extremely lucid but suffers from long-standing rheumatoid arthritis.

``She had gone Christmas shopping with my husband and fell over in Lewes High Street on Wednesday December 15. She couldn't get up, the ambulance was called and she was taken to the accident and emergency department at the Royal Sussex, arriving just after midday.

``My mother stayed in the short-stay ward from that Wednesday until the evening of Saturday December 18.

``The care was generally very poor. During that time, she had very little to eat or drink as everything was left on the trolley which was not within her reach; the bed had no call system operating and she relied on me to take her food and help her to eat it.

``This was fine as I was able to be there for a large part of each day, but not everyone has this level of family support and the hospital staff should be far more aware of people's needs.

``The staff nurse on duty on Friday and Saturday seemed unable to manage the ward, frequently saying that things would be 'done in a minute' when in fact they were done much later or not at all.

``On several occasions, I witnessed staff ignoring patients. At one point I felt I had to intervene as two staff continued a private conversation while a patient was calling for help.

``After this had been going on for about 10 minutes, I stood up and said loudly: 'Am I the only one here who can hear that person calling for help?'

``At that point, a member of staff went to her bed. How long would the neglect have continued if I hadn't been there to call attention to it?''

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: ``I completely agree with Mrs Owen that the lack of compassion shown by some of our staff towards her mother whilst she was in our care is distressing.

``The feelings of sadness, anger and disbelief at the lack of kindness and compassion sometimes shown by those working in the caring professions is felt as much, if not more, by the majority of NHS staff who do share and uphold these values.

``Our accident and emergency department and the adjoining short-stay ward can be exceptionally busy.

``I am certain it must sometimes feel impersonal and chaotic for patients and their families and it is our job not only to alleviate pain and treat a patient's illness or injury, but also to do all we can to minimise their fear and anxiety and make them feel safe and looked after.

``An organisation cannot mandate its staff to get this right. We each have a personal responsibility to make eye contact, say hello with a smile, speak with kindness, listen with sympathy, treat all our patients with the kindness and compassion we want for our own loved ones; and to not walk by when we witness someone else behaving unacceptably.

``When we received Mrs Owen's complaint in January I personally apologised to her for our failings in the care her mother received and since then her story has been shared with all the staff involved. We strive every day to do better than this and I believe that on most days for most patients we do.''

Patient B, aged 94, was admitted to St Richard's Hospital, Chichester.

Her condition gradually got worse until her daughter could not rouse her.

``She did not have an appetite and drank very little. The staff did not give her breakfast or thyroxine because 'she is too sleepy'.''

It was only when her daughter insisted on knowing what other drugs her mother had been given that she was told she had an injection of an antibiotic.

``It was not until I insisted in knowing what else had been given to my mother at the time of the catheter change, that I was told she had simultaneously been given an intramuscular injection of an antibiotic.''

She said staff misinterpreted her mother's pain relief needs, often failed to keep her mother warm and did not listen when she raised her concerns.

``On March 1, I was contacted by a senior officer from social services and was told that a safeguarding alert had been requested against me by members of the ward staff, and that this was just as much to protect me as my mother.

``When I went into the hospital later that day, I was told by the investigating officer that 'you should respect the health professionals' judgment'.

``I told them that I could not do so when they were misinterpreting my mother's wishes over the issue of pain relief.

``It was some time later, after my mother had been discharged from the hospital, that it was ruled by the investigating officer that it was my word against that of a member of the ward staff, that there were no historical issues and that there was no intent on my part to do harm.''

Cathy Stone, director of nursing and patient safety at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust, said: ``Firstly I would like to express our condolences to Patient B's family for their loss.

``It is always sad to hear that people are unhappy with the care received by themselves or a loved one, and we go to great lengths to encourage people to tell us of their experiences, and to learn lessons whenever appropriate. We also work closely with the Patients Association to ensure we hear about and investigate any concerns raised with them.

``I cannot comment directly on any individual patient, apart from to say that all of the complaints made in this case were extensively investigated at the time. The findings were shared with the family at the time and we have always been prepared to meet with them should they wish.

``The Trust demands the very highest standards from our staff and, although we can never be complacent, in the overwhelming majority of cases that is precisely what they provide for patients.

``The results of recent national inpatient surveys, unannounced inspections from the Care Quality Commission, and visits by Patient Experience Action Teams suggest our patients are receiving the very highest standards of care.''