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Undercover carers hired to help dying woman


A woman was so unhappy about the level of care nurses were giving her elderly mother that she hired private carers to work undercover and look after her.

Acting out of desperation, Annette Townend spent £1,000 hiring private carers to give her 82-year-old mother the attention she felt nurses at Bradford Royal Infirmary were not.

Sheila Smith’s liver and kidneys were failing because she had not been eating or drinking, and overworked nurses at the hospital did not have the time to spend with her.

After being told by a doctor her mother would be dead within days “if something wasn’t done”, 55-year-old Mrs Townend hired the carers and told them to pretend they were relatives or friends.

Dressed in normal clothing, the carers worked two-hour blocks three times a day for nine days, feeding Mrs Smith, giving her fluids, taking her to the toilet and keeping her company.

Mrs Smith recovered and was able to go home three weeks later.

A spokesman for Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are sorry to learn of Mrs Townend’s concerns about her mother’s care.

“We set high standards for ourselves and aim to get every patient’s treatment and care right, and in most cases we do.”

Mrs Townend said: “I am certain my mother would have died if the carers had not come in and looked after her”.



Readers' comments (18)

  • This is disgusting, yet again evidence where legislation needs to be brought in for registered staff / patient ratios, this also needs to take into account the level of dependency.

    Nurses just do not know where to turn to because of what is expected off of them. I am seriously considering a new career, I dont like the way the government are going with our NHS system.

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  • Why on earth didn't the doctors take action? Surely if a consultant reported poor care to the management then something would have been done?

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  • Given that the article is sourced from the Press Association and contains little detail (any 'facts' are those allegations made by the family), I'll reserve judgement on this one.

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  • My mother was in a big North London Hospital and I too paid for a carer for six weeks to sit by her bed while I was at work. If she needed water then there was someone there to help her drink. And at meal times she was able to eat the food hot and not cold while waiting for someone to shove it in her mouth. What concerned me so much and stays in my memory is what about the rest of the ward that didn;t have a daughter who a) could afford to hire a carer b) was 100% attentive to my mothers needs c) had a caring family and netowrk of friends to visit

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  • On behalf of all nurses, I am very sorry that you had to buy in care for your mother whilst she was in hospital; whether this was needed due to lack of attention from nurses or the result of poor management. It is apppalling.

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  • I'm surprised any agency would allow staff to go into a hospital under the cover of being relatives to deliver care. Are they insured to do that?

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  • Anonymous | 27-Oct-2011 4:28 pm

    Whereas it is entirely appropriate for you to express your sentiments and feelings about the care (or lack of) given to Tina's mother, please do not take it upon yourself to apologise on my behalf. Not all nurses are responsible for it, and the belief that it is somehow the fault of all of us, is misleading. We are all responsible for our own practice. I work very hard within a very effective, caring team of people. I am pleased and proud to be one of them, and I know how much hard work it takes to achieve what we do. No one but us needs to take credit for our successes, and no one but us needs to apologise for our failures.

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  • john warwick

    yea I see how proud you are that you are to shamed to give your name becuase you know that this is what happens in most hospitals. Most nurses see their work as a job and treat it like a job instead of remembering we are dealing with peoples lives. I was trained to treat my patient as how I would want my mother or father to be treated.

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  • john warwick | 29-Oct-2011 9:00 pm

    Same applies to you. Don't take it upon yourself to assume that everyone agrees with your sweeping and erroroneous statements. Take the point that was being made in my post!

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  • To Anon 28.10.11:
    Being defensive isn't going to solve the problems within the nursing profession. My post was not aimed at denegrating other nurses. It was about the issue of accountability.
    The NMC Code is crystal clear that nurses are accountable for their actions. We are also accountable for omissions in our care. We also are advocates for our patients which means that we MUST take action when we see others not doing their jobs properly or when management are failing to support staff and patients effectively.
    Many patients are perceiving nurses are being uncaring and neglecting their duties. We are ALL responsible for changing this perception. None of us can afford to rest on our laurels.
    By apologising to the family of the patient who was neglected in hospital, I was showing that most nurses ARE in fact caring, competent and providing good, if not excellent care to our patient. That is why it is so shocking to hear such news.

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