Patients complain “over and over again” about neglect at the hands of the NHS, including rude nurses and people being left in a helpless state, an MP who led a review of the issue has said.
In evidence to the Commons health committee, Labour MP Ann Clwyd told colleagues she had received thousands of letters from members of the public about poor care.
It comes as Robert Francis QC, who led the inquiry into the Mid Staffs scandal, told MPs some patients were “more damaged” by the complaints system that whatever had happened to them in the first place.
And he said any chief executive who tried to suppress whistleblowing by their staff should be sacked.
Ms Clwyd reported on standards in the NHS following the death in hospital of her husband, Owen Roberts. She has protested about the care he received.
She read complaints letters to MPs as part of her evidence to the Commons inquiry.
She said: “A woman who says ‘my 94-year-old mother was admitted to hospital in December 2013 and the care she received was a disgrace to the NHS.
“‘My daughter and I were on our hands and knees wiping the floor around my mother’s bed as it was filthy and smelled of urine.
“‘My mother was moved five times to different wards and only one ward showed some care. They were always short staffed, three qualified staff in a 22-patient high dependency ward.’”
In another case, Ms Clwyd said a patient who had suffered a stroke was forced to wait so long for a commode they soiled themselves. Others who needed help with feeding were offered none and lost weight.
She said some things could have been put right quite simply, such as a shortage of blankets, people feeling cold, needing an extra pillow, dehydration and not being able to get a drink.
“And then of course nursing stations, that’s complained of over and over again from the letters we had,” she added. “People were saying the nurses were there but they were gathered around the nursing station and we couldn’t interrupt their conversations.
“Not a day goes by without another letter, an email or a telephone call.
“I sometimes come in the room and one of my staff is on the phone for 10 minutes listening to someone pour their heart out about something that has gone wrong.”
In one case, an 88-year-old woman was said to have spent seven hours in A&E in a chair, in pain, with a broken arm.
In another, a complainant said: “My 89-year-old terminally-ill mother requested assistance for a wash and application of haemorrhoid cream. I was told by the nurses that they hadn’t got time.
“She requested a change of bedding as a drain had leaked on to the bed sheet, but was told ‘we don’t do that sort of thing, the nurses that come on duty in the morning do that’. She had to sleep in a wet bed all night. She requested help to go to the toilet but was told ‘on your notes it says you are mobile so you can get up by yourself’.”
Mr Francis told MPs he was also still getting letters from people who “have not been served well”.
He added: “Their real frustration is that what they wanted to be listened to, what they wanted to have something done about, has not been responded to at all.
“They are left with the feeling of being rejected. Whatever harm was done to them in the first place is increased and some people become very damaged indeed – perhaps more damaged by the rejection in the complaints process than they ever were with what affected them in the first place.”
Mr Francis said a cultural change could take place in the NHS with the right leadership.
“A trust led by a chief executive who welcomes a whistleblower…and at the same time comes down like a ton of bricks on anyone who tries to prevent that, will change the culture pretty quickly,” he said.
“We have unanimity among those who are leaders of the system, the government…everyone thinks that suppressing whistleblowers is absolutely wrong.
“Any chief executive who is found to be guilty of that should be sacked.”
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