Left to die

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THAT a woman spent £1,000 hiring private carers to look after her elderly mother by posing as relatives will, inevitably, be dismissed by Bradford Royal Infirmary - and the Department of Health - as an isolated incident.

However Annette Townend’s extreme actions - her mother was later discharged once she started eating, drinking and being treated with dignity - are symptomatic of the public’s alarm over the degrading treatment of the frail and vulnerable.

It also follows the Care Quality Commission’s devastating critique which concluded that one in five hospitals are breaking the law because their care was so appalling. Yet, with an ageing population, pressure on hospitals will only intensify, even more so once local authorities starting cutting their own social care budgets in earnest.

However, as Mrs Townend has shown, basic nursing - like keeping patients nourished and washed - can make a difference. As such, Ministers need to identify why so many doctors and nurses are unable to fulfil these basic functions - and whether a wider use of matrons is required to raise standards.