Belfast Telegraph

Shocking indictment of NHS flaws

Editor's Viewpoint

The experience endured by Mary Anne Hood after she was admitted to one of Northern Ireland's leading hospitals was shocking. Not only was the seriously ill 98-year-old forced to lie on a trolley for seven-and-a-half hours before being admitted to a ward, but her treatment at that stage lacked the dignity one would expect.

Quite graciously, her daughter blames the tremendous pressures under which staff work at the Ulster Hospital for what she regards as sub-standard care of her mother. Broken lifts, the removal of corpses from wards in the same lifts used by members of the public, and soiled clothing left lying in bins or on the floor overnight are some of the complaints she levelled at the hospital.

As we said, this is a shocking indictment of how the National Health Service is unravelling. For we are no longer surprised when we hear of staff working in intolerable conditions, of overcrowding in hospital departments, of care standards slipping even to the point where patients' lives are endangered. We accept that nurses and doctors are doing their best, but we are far from convinced that those charged with taking a strategic overview of the service, of managing resources and of maintaining standards are performing well.

The NHS has long been held up as one of the great triumphs of politics, providing people with free, first-class health care. Sadly, that reputation is being dented on an almost daily basis. There is too much buck passing between the Department of Health and the health trusts over who is responsible for the current chaos in the service.

Mrs Hood and her daughter deserve proper explanations for the questions raised over her treatment. The public is fed up being fobbed off with promises of improvements and transformation in care. They see a service where standards are being compromised by the sheer volume of work being shouldered by too few staff and they want an explanation as to who is to blame and what is required to put things right. Sadly, they often wait in vain.

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