Isabella Bailey was admitted to mid Stafford hospital with a hiatus hernia. During her hospital stay her family became so concerned about standards of care on ward 11 they decided to keep watch over her 24 hours a day.
Isabella’s daughter, Julie Bailey has written about her mother’s stay in hospital and what happened to other patients on ward 11. Her book “From Ward to Whitehall” is a horrific personal account of neglect and abuse.
Reading it I found myself underlining, turning over page corners and sadly recognising some of things nurses do when they stop seeing the person in the bed.
These quotes give some insight into the scale of the problem:
On ward culture
“Each day there is unkindness because there are so many uncaring staff on this ward, the negativity feeding off itself and multiplying.”
On caring for confused patients
“Nurse Ratchet has moved Mavis, she has had a mattress placed in the corridor opposite the nurses’ station. Every time she gets out of bed she shouts at her, ‘Get back into bed!’ you can hear her hollering all the way down the corridor.”
“Every time a nurse came near her, she was terrified, terrified of the very people who should have been there to care for her.. .when the staff came near her she would dig her nails into my hand in fear.”
On raising concerns
“If you contact management you’ll just get us into trouble and that won’t help anybody,” she [nurse] tells me.
“The woman in the isolation room wasn’t the only patient I saw drinking out of the flower vases that were piled up along the main corridor.”
“Sitting watching them [patients] claw at their food was heartbreaking… The ward was so starved of staff it was impossible to manage a ward and care for all those patients.”
On personal care
“Without further ado the bowl is emptied and Mavis hasn’t had a wash since at least Thursday, despite being covered in faeces. I’m surprised as they must have smelt her, as we have all weekend.”
“You rarely get eye contact with any of the staff, they could just walk straight past you, without any form of acknowledgement. You can stand at the nurses’ station for minutes without any of the staff even raising their eyes.”
On good nurses
“20% of the staff are lovely, absolute gems in this uncaring environment. Their presence can light up a room… I realise that their presence calms the ward, even the confused patients are less agitated when they are on duty, they respond to their kindness. The problem is because there are three different shifts a day and very few caring staff, a kind word is rare.”
So tomorrow the Francis report is published. This inquiry happened because patients suffered and died due to lack of care in a health system that no longer saw care as its primary function. As a profession we have to gather the strength and confidence to ensure this never happens again – and ensure that patients and their families can feel confident when they are admitted into our care.