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Patients Association brands NHS nurses 'cruel and demeaning'

  • 7 Comments

TV agony aunt Claire Rayner has said the way some NHS nurses treat elderly patients in their care is ‘cruel’ and ‘demeaning’.

In a report from the Patients Association, of which Ms Rayner is president, she called for “bad” nurses to be struck off the medical register and said it was “sickening” to see the changes to some parts of the profession.

Cases of people left lying in their own faeces and urine were revealed in the report and other patients having call bells taken away from them and being left without food or drink.

Ms Rayner said: “For far too long now, the Patients Association has been receiving calls on our helpline from people wanting to talk about the dreadful, neglectful, demeaning, painful and sometimes downright cruel treatment their elderly relatives had experienced at the hands of NHS nurses.”

Before the report was published the Patients Association received contact from one hospital that threatened it with legal action if it chose to publish the material.

The report relates to just 16 stories from relatives of patients in England, but the group said it has hundreds of others on its database from patients and their relatives who say they have been badly treated by the NHS.

  • 7 Comments

Readers' comments (7)

  • Martin Gray

    My first thoughts on reading this were 'Not again!'. There have been numerous media reports of poor nursing care, falling standards and general failure of patient care. Nowadays far too much emphasis is placed on paperwork and scientific aspects of nursing rather than just good old nursing skills - you know, feeding, cleaning, talking to patients. I'm proud to say I qualified as a SRN in the late 1970s when we used a daily kardex system to note what was happening with a patient; the new care plans are complicated, repetetive, and waste valuable nursing time. pressure is placed on nurses to complete the paperwork rather than look after the patient! Also why does the phrase 'too posh to wash' keep springing to mind? Nursing is a vocation, not a degree course for those with suitable GCSE results. Re-think the academics of nursing, get clinical tutors back in to hospitals to ensure students are taught the right and wrong way to look after patients, then maybe these horror stories will become a thing of the past.

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  • Alas, I think that in my 30 year plus nursing experience, elderly care has ALWAYS been the poor relation to other areas that are deemed more exciting and certainly less physically demanding. Elderly Care can attract nurses who have not gained employment in other higher tech areas and it may not be their vocation or choice of work which will not breed enthusiasm or 'going the extra mile'. Nurse training does not equip students to actually nurse patients - it has returned to random teaching with little practical experience or communication training so nurses are less experienced.
    I would hasten to add that poor care is by no means ubiquitous and there are fabulous care of the elderly units in many parts of the country and these issues occur on MANY medical and surgical wards as well. However, Elderly Care not a popular branch of nursing and posts just have to be filled. We can be very self satisfied as senior nurses and blame these reports on the current situation and view the past with a rosy glow (even if I do feel that there are things that were much better 'in my day'), but I know that elder abuse on wards went on when I was training in the late 1970's and since. Whilst at college doing post-reg training, I was an Agency Night sister at a large care of the elderly/ elderly mental health unit in North London in the 1980's and as an oncology nurse by background was very aware of individual care and the patient being as important as the illness. I was vigilant for poor care and abuse of vulnerable, confused and immobile patients on the elderly care unit. Patients being force fed sedation, told to pee in their pad when they were asking to go to the toilet was evident then and is still happening now. I reported abuse and nurses were suspended and investigated if I found these incidents. Re-education given to nurses not 'listening' to patients that they are not incontinent if they ask to go to the toilet and encouraging them to think 'do you wish to be treated like this when you are old' helped to improve insight and individual care! In cancer care the majority of patients are elderly and have lives outside their illness. The elderly of today are mothers/ fathers/ brothers/ sisters/ previously employed or even war heroes not an illness and deserve respect and dignity and we can learn from them too (even when a patient has dementia), which in my opinion, can lead to a very satisfying career.

    There are very good units our there. Someone speak up for them or hold your own hands up and perhaps they can lead the way to help improve this care once and for all. I dread being old as it is not that far off. I would probably be deemed one of the 'posh' nurses as mentioned in the first reply (although I have never shunned washing, clearing faeces, vomit or sputum and still help on the wards even now I am a CNS), but I am not rich and will have to rely on the NHS and Social Service when I become ill. We need to speak out - be accountable. Inaction is as culpable as doing the wrong thing in the first place.

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  • someone fooling nurses and the public alike. yes patient care is suffering and will continue to suffer.

    Increasing the nursing salary, increasing public expectations through clever media hype and reducing the staff levels. The NHS cant cope, blame the Nurses. and why not? they are accountable, if they cant do 3 things at once not my fault, they are being paid enough.

    Remove the wool from our eyes, is it a secret? if you dont have enough staff how can patient quality of care get better. The System, its hidden,look hard enough, youll see who to blame, what will become of the NHS as Nurses leaves the ward area? very sad..... a fresh batch of blamees... vicious cycle

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  • Given the disgraceful way my father was treated after he had a stroke (and numerous other examples) I have to say that the main thing wrong with The Patients Association report is that it picks out nurses (a very rare sighting on many wards in my experience!).

    It should have considered the dreadful treatment of patients by "doctors, medical students, nurses, nursing assistants (who - after all - do almost all the "work" on stroke and geriatric wards), SLTs, OTs, PTs, dieticians, admin, "matrons", cleaners, caterers, idiotic lay visitors........." :(

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  • Whilst I do not doubt that there are many nurses ( of all grades ) that bring our profession into disrepute, I think one of the issues that is not being discussed is the attitudes and expections of patients and relatives. How many of us have cared for patients who inappropriately use buzzers, in the belief that we are their personal maid? Of course no-one should be told to use their incontinence pad but due to short-staffing issues, too much paperwork and time constraints put upon us is it any wonder that such practices do exist? There are rotten apples in all professions, but there are more good apples than bad!!!

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  • As far back as 1978 I remember vulnerable patients being bullied for soiling themselves. Or nurses plating up meals for themselves before serving the patients. Or even giving triple doses of sedatives to patients who were a 'nuisance'.

    I reported this and found that my short term contract was not renewed [I was an auxiliary at the time]. As a student later I saw similar abuses and have little doubt that they persist. Abuse seems to happen whenever people have a position of 'power' over others...

    Most nurses are compassionate - let us not forget that - but the minority must be removed from the profession.

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  • SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE ABOUT THE SITUATION NOW, AND FAST INSTEAD OF ALWAYS MERELY TALKING ABOUT IT AND WRITING REPORTS ABOUT IT. THERE ARE ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSES FOR POOR CARE AND IT IS UP TO THE AUTHORITIES TO PROVIDE OPTIMAL FACILITIES IN WHICH THIS CHALLENGING, EXCELLENT AND HIGHLY REWARDING CARE CAN BE CARRIED OUT IN AN APPROPRIATE AND DIGNIFIED MANNER TO MEET THE NEEDS OF EACH AND EVERY INDIVIUDAL AND GIVE THOSE CARING FOR THE OUTSTANDING JOB SATISFACTION!

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