Thursday, 16 May 2013


I attended a Campaign Meeting last night for the Basildon branch of Cure the NHS - a newly set up organisation by family members of victims of poor care and treatment at Basildon Hospital, the hospital where my husband died in September last year.  Some of the stories are heart breaking and the levels of care given appalling.

What has happened to the staff in our hospitals who think it okay to treat people with such disdain.  Not only is there a lack of compassion but just common decency and kindness. 

It's hard to foresee how the many failings are going to be addressed.

Let me relay a couple of stories I know of first hand (not including my husband) - my brother in law had been quite ill with heart failure and various problems for a few years, one evening when he had trouble breathing he was taken to hospital by ambulance, now he was a fairly old man, his wife would always stay with him all day and all night if the hospital allowed, but in this particular instance she was told she could not stay and would have to leave when visiting hours ended.  During the day she had been asking the Nurses when he would be given the various medications that he had already been taking at home because the time for these medicines had come and gone - she was told that they were busy and would give him his medication when they did their drug round.  The Ward Sister then spoke to my sister in law and told her to stop harrassing her Nurses.  The first night he was there my sister in law went home as told but was phoned at seven o'clock the following morning and asked to come in, her husband had taken himself to the bathroom during the night, fallen over and had lain there for two hours!  That's what it took to happen for him to be given a side room which would enable my sister in law to stay with him, which she was then allowed to do until he was well enough to leave.  Why could the staff not see that by allowing her to stay in the first instance would lighten their load because she could do things for him herself instead of having to wait for the Nurses to do it.

My mother suffers with Parkinsons, and because of this illness she often has falls in the home, a couple of years ago my mother had a fall, we called an ambulance, they said she had broken her wrist and would need to go to hospital.  I went with her in the ambulance.  At the hospital they tried to reset her wrist and then sent her for a second x-ray to see if it was set properly.  Whilst waiting for the x-ray results she was given a sandwich (it was early afternoon and she had had no food at all because of how early she had fallen she had not yet had breakfast).  Unfortunately her wrist needed to be pinned, but because she had been given food they would be unable to give her an anaesthetic so she would have to stay overnight and have the operation the following day. This turned into a stay of five days because each day they would postpone her operation for another more urgent.  She was on a ward with four other women.  At this time my mother only needed her walking stick to get around, but still without the stick she was stranded.  Each evening they would place her stick far enough away from the bed (for health and safety reasons) which meant she could not get out of bed unless given assistance to reach her walking stick.  The staff overnight were two male nurses.  The elderly lady in the bed next to my mother was also unable to get herself to the bathroom and would use a commode - which obviously had to be brought to her.  During the night she would ring her bell to no avail, by the time one of the Nurses arrived she had already done what she needed the commode for, but in her bed.  These men would scold her.  They were so intimidating that the poor woman would say to them "Oh, please don't tell me off, I didn't do it on purpose".  Eventually, my mother would ring her bell to get their attention because they wouldn't answer her neighbour's call.  That's not just a lack of compassion, it's actually cruelty.  My mother's medication for her Parkinsons have to be taken at set intervals during the day and at the same time of day every day - did she get this in hospital - no she didn't.  The staff should have been aware of this or made themselves aware of this when they took the medication from her on admission. We knew none of this until my mother had eventually been discharged and her wrist pinned - she was afraid that either myself or my father would kick up a fuss and she would then be made to suffer.  A year later my mother had another fall on a Friday evening, her other wrist was badly swollen and very painful, she endured the pain until Monday morning when she visited her Doctor, who sent her immediately to hospital with a broken wrist.  Fortunately they were able to set it that day and we took her home.  Now, based on her own experience and from what she reads in the newspapers she has said, regardless of what she suffers from or what may happen to her she is not to be taken to hospital EVER.

This is what our country has become.  I know that not all staff are cruel - I have a very good friend who is a Nurse at another hospital and she is the kindest person I know, for her to treat anyone badly would be incomprehensible.  When she was still a student and working on the Geriatric Ward she would often have to wash the bodies of those patients who had passed away - when we asked her whether it was awful she said no it wasn't, it was the last kindness you could do for a person.   I know there must be others just like her and I have to say on previous occasions when my husband was in hospital for hip replacements we could not fault his care.  Likewise when my children were born, I had no complaints at all, yet here we are some fifteen years later since my last daughter was born and the horror stories from the Maternity Ward are awful.

Maybe everyone around the country should set up a Cure the NHS group for their local hospital, it's time we started being pro-active and did something about all the problems rather than sitting back and complaining - not that we have no right to complain - these people need to be made accountable and know that it's no longer "okay" to ride roughshod over us.

My advice to everyone who has a relative in hospital or going into hospital is to watch everything and do as much as you are able yourself, keep a diary of events, ask questions, don't be afraid to question what is being done ...... or not done!  If you have elderly neighbours or relatives going into hospital, go and visit them, let the staff see that they are not alone.  People go into hospital with simple problems and either come out with worse problems or don't come out at all.

If anyone is reading this who works in a hospital and is doing a good job I would say well done and thank you.