Elderly Britons endure 'harrowing' hospital plight: watchdog

15th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

A senior figure monitoring Britain's National Health Service (NHS) detailed "harrowing" cases of the neglect of elderly patients in a report released Tuesday.

One patient died without her husband by her side because he had been "forgotten" in a waiting room, Health Service Ombudsman Ann Abraham reported.

Another was left in urine-soaked clothes held together with paper clips.

And half the the people studied in her report had not received adequate food and water during their hospital stay.

The state health service was "failing to meet even the most basic standards of care", said Abraham after in-depth review of 10 serious complaints against the NHS.

Some patients were not given help eating and bathing while others were left distressed after mismanagement of their discharge from hospital.

One cancer patient, who was too dehydrated to speak, was left in pain and in need of the toilet for several hours while waiting for his daughter to pick him up so he could return home to die.

"These often harrowing accounts should cause every member of staff who reads this report to pause and ask themselves if any of their patients could suffer in the same way," Abraham said.

"I know from my caseload that in many cases the answer must be 'yes'," she added.

British charities urged the government to consider the report's findings and take action.

"The inhumane treatment of older people described in this report is sickening and should send shockwaves through the NHS and government," Michelle Mitchell, of Age UK, said.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the findings mirrored their own research findings.

Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said the cases were "completely unacceptable," but defended the health service.

"It is of course important to put these 10 examples in perspective. The NHS sees over a million people every 36 hours and the overwhelming majority say they receive good care," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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