'Cruel' Nurses Slammed Over Care of Elderly
August 28, 2009
NHS nurses came under fire today for their “cruel” and “demeaning” treatment of elderly patients.
TV agony aunt and former nurse Claire Rayner said she was “sickened” by what has happened to some parts of her profession.
The president of the Patients Association also called for “bad” nurses to be struck off the medical register.
A report from the charity today revealed stories of people left lying in their own faeces and urine, having call bells taken away from them and being left without food or drink.
One former nurse told of the substandard care she received as a patient herself, adding: “It’s a scary world out in the wards.”
In a foreword to the report, Rayner said: “For far too long now, the Patients Association has been receiving calls on our helpline from people wanting to talk about the dreadful, neglectful, demeaning, painful and sometimes downright cruel treatment their elderly relatives had experienced at the hands of NHS nurses.”
Rayner said it was by “sad coincidence” that she trained as a nurse with one of the patients who had “suffered so much”.
She added: "We both came from a generation of nurses who were trained at the bedside and in whom the core values of nursing were deeply inculcated.
“I am sickened by what has happened to some parts of my profession of which I was so proud.
“These bad, cruel nurses may be — probably are — a tiny proportion of the nursing workforce, but even if they are only one or 2% of the whole they should be identified and struck off the register.
“If only the majority of good, caring nurses — and some of them figure in these case histories — would stand up for their patients and their own profession and blow whistles, it would make a difference and bring back to them the sense of pride in the provision of good, safe care that used to be enjoyed by the whole population of this country.”
The Patients Association holds a database of hundreds of stories from patients and their relatives who claim to have been badly treated by the NHS.
Today’s report presents 16 of those stories in detail.
Its director, Katherine Murphy, said the stories were often about the most vulnerable elderly and terminally ill patients.
“These accounts reveal patients being denied basic dignity in their care — often left in soiled bed clothes, being given inadequate food and drink, having repeated falls, suffering from late diagnosis, cancelled operations, bungled referrals and misplaced notes.
“There are also worrying instances of cruel and callous attitudes from staff towards vulnerable and sometimes terminally ill patients.”
The Government’s chief nursing officer, Chris Beasley, said: "All patients deserve the highest quality of care from the NHS and the poor care received in these cases is simply unacceptable.
“Where care falls below expected standards, this can be distressing for the patients concerned and their families and we expect trusts to take immediate action to investigate and ensure this does not happen again.”
She said it was important to note this was not representative of the picture across the NHS.
“The NHS treats millions of people every day and the vast majority of patients experience good quality, safe and effective care — the Care Quality Commission’s recent patient experience survey shows that 93% of patients rate their overall care as good or excellent,” she said.
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said: "The level of care described by these families is completely unacceptable, and we will not condone nurses who behave in ways that are contrary to the principles and ethics of the profession.
“However, we believe that the vast majority of nurses are decent, highly skilled individuals.”