Patients neglected in hospital due to shocking nursing care standards

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The Patients Association has called for better standards of nursing care in our hospitals after shocking reports of elderly patients being neglected by nurses. In some cases relatives believe that this poor level of care has directly led to the death of their loved one.

The Patients Association has uncovered cases where patients were left to lie in their own urine and faeces whilst others were left desperately hungry and thirsty as food was left out of reach and then trays removed untouched.

Nurses are so busy they can't give proper care to elderly patients

In fact, shocking new figures reveal that up to 13,500 patients have effectively been ‘left to starve’ on NHS wards in just the last year – most of them too frail to feed themselves and ignored by nurses. There is even a ‘red tray system’ in use which indicates to staff that a patient needs help to eat, yet they are still left with no assistance.

The NHS Information Centre’s figures show that some 214,888 patients were discharged from hospital with malnutrition – most were admitted in a malnourished state, but 13,420 became malnourished whilst in hospital due to poor nursing care.

This malnutrition puts elderly patients in real danger. By becoming desperately underweight they have much weaker immune systems and so aren’t able to fight off illnesses like flu and pneumonia – which can both be fatal. Also, with a lack of calcium and vitamins, they are more at risk of broken bones from even a minor fall.

The Chief Executive of the Patients Association, Katherine Murphy, said: "Nobody is helping the most vulnerable."

"Nurses are now too busy to look after patients' essential needs and it isn’t a priority..."

"We have had very distressing calls from patients who say they had to help others on the ward after hearing them cry out for water."

There are many heartbreaking stories coming to light with families insisting that poor nursing care has been a major contribution to the death of an elderly loved one. Brenda Barnett was too weak to feed herself and nurses rarely came to her aid, despite her having the red ‘needs assistance’ tray. Other patients often had to help her eat. She died from cancer shortly after being discharged from hospital, but her family firmly believes that better nursing care would have prolonged her life. Margot Kennedy was left alone in a side room for the 6 weeks leading up to her death during which time she barely ate, and wasn’t helped to. Having entered hospital with pneumonia, she lost weight rapidly and died from cardiac arrest.

Liz Pryor said her elderly mother Anne Robson went to hospital following a fall in January and became badly dehydrated and lost weight. She says her mother was left lying in a nightdress that was wet up to her armpits with urine. She died within hours of being discharged.

General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing Peter Carter said of the Patients Association findings: "Neither the RCN nor the overwhelming majority of committed and caring nurses can possibly condone the neglect, rudeness and in some cases outright cruelty outlined in this report."

If you believe that a loved one has suffered neglect in hospital or poor nursing care which may have even contributed to their death, you may be able to claim compensation from the hospital trust involved.

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