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.
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.”
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