An elderly patient suffered shameful care at Brighton’s biggest hospital, according to a report published today (Wednesday 9 November).
Joyce Jones, 82, was admitted to the Royal Sussex County Hospital after a fall in which she broke her hip. She spent ten days there last December.
Her daughter Liz Owen later wrote to Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the Royal Sussex, to complain about her mother’s treatment.
She sent a copy of her complaint to the Patients Association, an independent charity which campaigns for better nursing care.
The association published Joyce Jones’s story today along with 15 other patient stories highlighting poor care.
The association also started a campaign today to improve fundamental patient care.
The campaign is based on the four most frequent concerns raised by patients and their relatives and carers about poor patient care. These include
- patients not being helped to go the toilet
- patients not being given sufficient pain relief
- patients not having enough to eat and drink
- inadequate communication such as call bells being ignored
Among those taking part at the start of the association’s campaign was Margaret Haywood, 60, the whistleblower who filmed poor care at the Royal Sussex six years ago.
She resorted to filming after she tried to raise her concerns about the standards of care but was ignored.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council struck her off for breaching patient confidentiality which, as Margaret Haywood pointed out, was a secondary issue when abuse was taking place.
Two years ago she was restored to the nursing register and now trains nurses in how to raise concerns in the light of her experiences.
She was voted Patient’s Choice Nurse of the Year in 2009.
She said that she was saddened to learn that years later similar problems were still being reported.
On the experience of Joyce Jones at the Royal Sussex, the association said: “During her time in hospital she lost a stone in weight and her daughter complains that the nursing staff were also inattentive to the needs of the patients under their care.
“Nurses didn’t record Joyce’s fluid levels and her daughter also complains that simple tasks, such as the need to wash her mother, were neglected.”
The story of Joyce Jones’s treatment was described by Mrs Owen who said: “On admission, my mother was left on a trolley in a great deal of discomfort.
“The Accident and Emergency Department was chaotic.
“There was nobody clearly in charge, although there were empty cubicles, a lot of staff, and often up to eight paramedics being kept waiting to hand over patients.”
Later Mrs Owen said that her mother was admitted to the Short Stay Ward, adding: “She had very little to eat or drink as everything was left on the trolley which was not within her reach.
“The bed had no call system operating and she relied on me to take her food and help her to eat it.
“This was fine as I was able to be there for a large part of each day but not everyone has this level of family support and the hospital staff should be far more aware of people’s needs.
“On several occasions I witnessed staff ignoring patients. At one point I felt I had to intervene as two staff continued a private conversation while a patient was calling for help.
“After this had been going on for about ten minutes, I stood up and said loudly: ‘Am I the only one here who can hear that person calling for help?’
“At that point a member of staff went to her bed.”
Mrs Owen said that a doctor “arranged transfer to a ward in the Barry Building”.
She said: “My mother’s property did not go with her, however, and I had to go back to the Short Stay Ward on three separate occasions over the next few days to collect her things.
“This was despite a staff nurse telling me very emphatically that all of my mother’s belongings had left the ward when I first went back there.
“I find it amazing that it is possible for a vulnerable person’s possessions to be so badly looked after.”
Mrs Owen said that her mother was suffering from a broken pelvis despite the fracture not appearing to show up on x-ray results.
She said: “I am particularly fearful for people who do not have anyone to advocate for them and appalled at the lack of compassion shown by staff in ‘caring’ professions.
“In addition, I am concerned at the way in which eating and drinking is now divorced from nursing – it is all part of patient care and should be an integral part of people’s rehabilitation.
“How can things improve? It is a big question – with no quick fix answer. But the medical profession must do all it can to help people when they are at their most vulnerable – if family members can be involved that is all to the good, but if people are on their own, they have the right to receive good care when they need it most.”
Joyce Jones has since made a reasonable recovery.
Duncan Selbie, the hospital trust chief executive, took over four years ago – after the Margaret Haywood episode.
He apologised in person after receiving Mrs Owen’s complaint.
He said today: “I completely agree with Mrs Owen that the lack of compassion shown by some of our staff towards her mother while she was in our care is distressing.
“The feelings of sadness, anger and disbelief at the lack of kindness and compassion sometimes shown by those working in the caring professions is felt as much, if not more, by the majority of NHS staff who do share and uphold these values.
“Our Accident and Emergency Department and the adjoining Short Stay Ward can be exceptionally busy.
“I am certain it must sometimes feel impersonal and chaotic for patients and their families and it is our job not only to alleviate pain and treat a patient’s illness or injury but also to do all we can to minimise their fear and anxiety and make them feel safe and looked after.
“An organisation cannot mandate its staff to get this right.
“We each have a personal responsibility to make eye contact, say hello with a smile, speak with kindness, listen with sympathy, treat all our patients with the kindness and compassion we want for our own loved ones and to not walk by when we witness someone else behaving unacceptably.
“It is my personal responsibility and the responsibility of every person who manages others to lead by example and actively demonstrate this every day.
“We have to think in terms of what I can do, always do our best and demand the same from everyone we work with.
“When we received Mrs Owen’s complaint in January I personally apologised to her for our failings in the care her mother received and since then her story has been shared with all the staff involved.
“We strive every day to do better than this and I believe that on most days for most patients we do.”