31.12.07

Determinedly Deaf to the Obvious Truth

On 30 August 2009, Minette Marrin responded to a report from the Patients Association in The Sunday Times.

This is what she said:

"The stories are horrifying — OLD PEOPLE NEGLECTED, LYING IN THEIR OWN FAECES AND URINE, HUNGRY, THIRSTY AND AFRAID, WHILE NURSES CHAT CALLOUSLY AT THE NURSING STATION, INDIFFERENT TO THE SUFFERING AROUND THEM...

What is also particularly sickening is that NONE OF THIS IS REMOTELY NEW. It has been a long time since anybody with any knowledge of National Health Service nurses could be that proud of them. FOR MANY YEARS PAST, A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF THEM HAVE BEEN EVERY BIT AS BAD AS THIS REPORT NOW CLAIMS...

There is no shortage of nightmare nurses. I know from many personal visits to hospitals over 20 years, and from many hundreds of heartbreaking readers’ letters over 15 years, that NHS NURSING HORROR STORIES ARE LEGION. Whenever I’ve written an article about them, I get in response a collection of anecdotes that would disgrace a Third World country. And, as the Patients Association report points out, MOST OF THESE STORIES ARE ABOUT OLD PEOPLE...

Why has everyone been so determinedly deaf to the obvious truth? Nearly 12 years ago I wrote an article for another newspaper headlined 'The devil nurses of the health services'…

NURSES’ PERSONAL STANDARDS WOULD HAVE HORRIFIED FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE. IT struck me forcibly HOW SLOVENLY MANY NURSES WERE, with loose hair trailing and hanging over patients’ wounds, with unkempt nails and hands all too rarely washed between patients. MANY WERE JUST MEAN: THEY IGNORED AND PATRONISED THE PATIENTS.

'THEY BRING THEM TO THE OPERATING TABLE UNWASHED, LEAVE THEM FRIGHTENED AND UNFED, DISTRESSED BY LOUD MUSIC, OVERFLOWING CATHETER BAGS AND BED SORES, BY DIRTY SHEETS AND FILTHY LAVATORIES WITH BLOOD IN THE SINKS AND EXCREMENT ON THE FLOOR,' I wrote. 'THESE ARE HORRORS CAUSED NOT BY SHORTAGE OF MONEY, BUT BY PERSONAL LAZINESS, INDIFFERENCE, LACK OF SELF-DISCIPLINE OR OF ANY DISCIPLINE AT ALL.' And so on.

THERE WAS TOTAL SILENCE FROM THE ROYAL COLLEGE OF NURSING AND THE GENERAL NURSING COUNCIL. Yet not only patients but also many nurses and doctors wrote to me in agreement, describing even worse things. So why didn’t nurses and doctors protest?

When Professor Lord Winston publicly complained about the terrible mistreatment of his elderly mother in hospital in 2000, I thought how late in the day it was for a distinguished and powerful doctor to bring this up. Surely he cannot have been the first consultant to notice the disgusting wards and vile treatment in many hospitals? Surely countless other top consultants knew about this scandalous state of affairs (or should have done), and should have brought it up?

Given the abysmal standards of nursing hygiene on many hospital wards, it is hardly surprising that we have had a growing number of scandals which no one can ignore. POOR BASIC HYGIENE WAS A FACTOR IN THE RECENT DISASTER AT THE MID STAFFORDSHIRE NHS FOUNDATION TRUST HOSPITAL WHERE AT LEAST 400 PATIENTS DIED NEEDLESSLY; the official report of 2007 blamed 'shocking and appalling' standards of care. But TWO YEARS ON, IT EMERGED EARLIER THIS YEAR THAT 10 NHS HEALTH TRUSTS HAVE EVEN WORSE DEATH RATES THAN MID STAFFORDSHIRE HAD. As a spokesman for the Patients Association said at the time: 'We are amazed that trusts could have these high mortality rates and yet not automatically face any action.'

Quite…

One of the problems is that... ANY NURSE OR DOCTOR BRAVE ENOUGH TO BLOW THE WHISTLE RUNS THE RISK OF NEVER WORKING IN MEDICINE AGAIN... Perversely, IT IS ONLY FOR WHISTLE-BLOWING THAT NHS STAFF ARE PUNISHED OR DISMISSED… THERE SEEM TO BE NO SANCTIONS FOR BAD PRACTICE.

THE UNIONS HAVE SEEN TO THAT…

Another problem may, sadly, BE A WIDESPREAD FEAR AND DISLIKE OF OLD PEOPLE as a constant and unwelcome memento mori."

So, we now live in a society where a good few of those whom we hope might comprise the most caring part of that society “dislike old people” and regard them as an “unwelcome memento mori”.

Welcome to a world socially engineered by Blair, Brown, Mandelson, Thatcher, the Fat Cats, sub-prime, greed-is-good and the creatures behind the scenes who gave all of these the office to create a system that despises vulnerable old age.

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