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Patients 'suffering lack of care'

Patients are still suffering due to a lack of basic care in hospitals,with too many parts of the NHS having "lost their way", according to a report from the Patients Association.

The charity's annual study, which is based on stories from patients and their families, said the NHS often forgets that " care and compassion should be at the heart of what staff do".

Its in-depth look at the care of 14 patients found harrowing examples of people left without food and drink, failures to refer patients properly and inadequate investigations into what was causing elderly people pain.

In the case of Averil Hart, a 19-year-old student who suffered from anorexia, two NHS teams failed to care for her properly, the report said.

Neither communicated with each other or performed regular health checks despite the fact she was at high risk of a relapse.

Following 10 months in hospital, Ms Hart, a student at the University of East Anglia, was discharged into the care of the Norfolk community eating disorders team and the university primary care team.

The care co-ordinator assigned to her was a junior trainee with no practical experience of anorexia, and proper checks were not carried out on Ms Hart's weight or blood.

Ms Hart was found unconscious on the floor of her student flat kitchen by a cleaner and later transferred to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, where notes suggest her blood sugar was not properly monitored. She later died.

The hospital trust involved has apologised. The University of East Anglia medical service said it could not comment on individual cases "because of our duty of confidentiality".

In the case of Annie Carroll, who is in her late 80s, her family complained of delays in diagnosing a brain haemorrhage at Aintree University Hospital.

Despite a history of falls, Mrs Carroll was also placed in a bed which she easily fell out of and was declared "medically fit" by one consultant despite a later brain scan showing she had suffered another bleed in her brain. This had caused hallucinations which staff had dismissed as dementia.

Despite making a series of formal complaints and contacting the Care Quality Commission and the Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman, the family had still not received a detailed response to its complaints months later.

The hospital has since apologised and said it is "extremely sorry" for the delays in responding.

In another case, John Moore was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour in April 2013, but experienced a critical delay at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey.

An operation was delayed after a junior doctor at Frimley forgot to make a critical referral to St George's Hospital in London.

One consultant who told Mr Moore he would die from his tumour also said he just had to "accept it and get on with it".

Both hospitals have since apologised and the consultant involved has reviewed his performance.

In another case, 84-year-old Olive Burns went into Tameside Hospital in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, with a suspected fractured hip.

Her condition deteriorated so rapidly her family was told she had been placed on the controversial Liverpool Care Pathway for end of life care, only to be told later this was not the case.

The family's complaint included that staff working on a busy Bank Holiday weekend had "apparently forgotten" to treat Mrs Burns. The hospital has now said it is on "a journey of improvement".

In the case of Herbert Boswell, also treated at Tameside Hospital, his daughter Doreen was left to clean up her father after staff failed to insert a tube properly.

She said: "There was blood everywhere and the healthcare assistant who changed my father's bed left him covered with blood all over his face. As I write this, I am not ashamed to say that my heart is broken and tears are just pouring down my face, because it is so vivid: the picture of his face as I tried to tenderly wipe his face clean."

Years earlier, a consultant at the same hospital said Mr Boswell was not suitable for a lung cancer operation due to his age. The family obtained a second opinion and Mr Boswell was operated on and went on to live for another decade, free from cancer.

The hospital said that, "on occasions in the past, the care we offered our patients did not meet the standards they rightly expected and for this we are truly sorry".

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said recommendations in the Francis Inquiry into failings at Mid Staffs should form a blueprint for safe care.

"However words are not enough," she added.

"The Government needs to ensure that the changes made to the NHS in the next few years put the patient and their needs at the centre of everything they do, in order to ensure that the sort of cases shown in this report are not repeated."

Robert Francis QC, the newly appointed president of the Patients Association, said: "The experiences of patients and relatives remain the best way to detect care that is being delivered without care and compassion.

"Let us all hope that in the near future we will stop having to listen to disturbing reports of poor and unsafe care in many different places and instead be looking at a service which has learned from the mistakes, and has ensured that the excellent practice we know exists has become the norm."

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said: "This report highlights some deeply concerning examples where patients have not received the level of care which they deserve.

"It is right to highlight the impact that an inadequate complaints system can have on patients and their families."

Dr Carter said the report came "at the end of a tumultuous year for the health service, which is now at one of the most important junctures in its 65-year history".

He added: "It is vital that the reports and reviews we have seen this year do not simply gather dust, and it would be unforgivable if this opportunity to learn and make improvements for patients was missed."

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "The shocking cases in this report defy belief and make me all the more determined to make compassionate care the beginning, middle and end of everything the NHS does.

"We have already brought in a new inspection system to expose poor care wherever it happens and stamp it out, and in the most serious cases we are looking to introduce new criminal sanctions to hold trusts and individuals to account.

"I am determined to make the Francis report recommendations a reality."


From Belfast Telegraph