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OPINION

'The issue of resources can no longer be ignored'

  • 4 Comments

It has been difficult to read the patient stories unveiled by the health service ombudsman Ann Abraham in her report on care of older people last week

Patients ignored, left unfed, dehydrated, discharged with inadequate pain medication - the list is chilling. One woman was left unbathed for 13 weeks, while another woman’s husband was abandoned in a waiting room while his wife died alone elsewhere in the hospital.

Looking after older people is complex - they are often highly dependent and many have multiple conditions. But the report says there are 1.7 million more people aged over 65 in the UK than 25 years ago, and the number of people over 85 has doubled in that same period. By 2034, 23% of the population is projected to be over 65. So the NHS must get better at looking after these patients.

Having worked in a busy ward of older patients in the 1980s, Graham Pink knows how hard it is to manage a busy ward. He admitted in his manuscript (it is yet to find a publisher) A Time to Speak that he was forced to make difficult choices because he had no time to deliver the most fundamental care. He once told a patient to soil the bed because he could not bring her a commode for 10 minutes because he was helping another patient. He felt so strongly he spoke out - and lost his job as a result.

His account is far from “poor me” in tone, but as a reader you can’t help feeling sorry for both patients and nurse in such an appalling situation.

Some nurses are neglectful. And we should not excuse their behaviour. But I truly believe they are few and far between. Many are like Graham. They do not go to work to do a bad job. They chose this career to help people. The NHS needs the resources to allow them to provide the care older people deserve.

Next week, we’re running a special four-page focus on lessons we can learn from the ombudsman’s report.

  • 4 Comments

Readers' comments (4)

  • Why does management think and feel that this situation is ok?
    How do management justify to themselves that this 'care' is adequate?
    What do they feel or think is more important?
    Are these managers subject to the same moral and ethical framework as us? What do they have to lose? Are they inspired and motivated by the same vocation as nurses?
    How likely then are they to hear, understand and act on our behalf or the patients?

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  • I have been in a managerial position and my experience is that many managers will convince themselves that red is white if necessary in order to fulfil their role. They begin to see those who object as disruptive, or moaning, or not prepared to change but never that they have a valid point of view to their objections. Certainly in community where I currently work we are becoming more and more task orientated because we have to do things commissioners can count. Quality is irrelevant.

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  • Is this a third world country we are talking about?

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  • DISPATCHES C4 last night. A classic example of resources! The care a copd patient recieved was shamefull....a quite frankly bloody useless GP who should have been co-ordinating care (nowhere to be seen most of the time)....a more disjointed, fragmented service by district nurses you'd be hard pushed to find!

    A motor neurone patient left waiting 6 months for a nursing home place (probably hoping she'd die before she could take the place!). An old chap with parkinsons admitted with a stroke and making good progress until transferred to a general ward where his disgusting care contributed to him catching c-diff and septacaemia (nurses with no compassion, and who couldn't even be bothered reading his care plan, Dr's who couldn't be bothered reviewing his medication!). harrowing stuff. Staffing levels undoubtedly to blame..but there seemed to be an overriding impression of health professionals without one ounce of compassion or care for other human beings. Two london trusts involved as well.

    I would suggest there are many involved in health care who are just picking up a wage packet on last nights evidence

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