Too many patients are “shockingly” let down by poor care in the NHS, a report revealing a series of damning failures claims today.
The Patients’ Association said its snapshot findings were a “wake-up call” for Westminster and the NHS and demanded action to prevent mistakes being repeated.
Among patients whose plight is highlighted is that of RAF veteran George Robertshaw who died alone at home in February, six weeks short of his 105th birthday, hours after he was discharged from Huddersfield Royal Infirmary where he had been briefly admitted for treatment.
His family say he should never have been allowed home. His care team found him cold, thirsty and very weak and despite their efforts and those of his GP, the hospital refused to re-admit him.
In another case, the family of pensioner Masie Walton say they were shocked by staffing levels and standards of care and hygiene at Dewsbury and District Hospital where she was treated before her death in July.
They still had serious concerns about the cause of her death, and claimed she was left waiting 90 minutes for pain relief for a severe headache the night before she died when they were told only one doctor was covering the hospital.
Today’s report details 13 accounts from patients or relatives who have experienced poor care in hospitals and care homes.
Chief executive Katherine Murphy said: “These appalling and tragic cases serve to highlight the devastating consequences when poor practice is left unchallenged and unchanged.
“Whilst there is a lot to be proud of about the NHS, including the overwhelming majority of staff who are skilled and hard-working, these cases are a tragic wake-up call for those in Westminster as well as on hospital wards.
“A new culture of care with a commitment and priority from trust boards needs to be put at the heart of the health service, for those who do not appropriate action needs to happen.”
Mr Robertshaw’s son John said it was the second time in a year his father had been discharged home without proper support.
“Had the seriousness of my father’s condition been correctly diagnosed by a doctor on his arrival and admittance to hospital, the outcome may well have been different,” he said.
“As it was, he was wrongly sent home, and nobody at the hospital was prepared to re-admit this seriously ill 104-year-old man. They just weren’t interested at all... he died in his home alone under what conditions we will never know.
“My father was a strong independent person who served his country when it needed him and yet the very systems he fought for let him down when he needed them most. I don’t want it to happen to anybody else.”
Mrs Walton’s children Jeanette Vaines and David Walton said their mother suffered multiple failures in her treatment.
They added: “Since her death, we feel we have had no time to grieve; instead we have had to argue with professional medical staff about our mother’s poor hospital care and determine her cause of death.”
NHS Confederation chief executive Mike Farrar said: “We should never excuse poor standards of care and we need to take bold and decisive action when we see it happening. We need to ensure that the care provided to every NHS patient is of the standards of the best.”
The Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS trust said: “We would offer our deepest condolences to Mr Robertshaw’s family. We have investigated the complaint and learned a great deal from this.”
Helen Thomson, interim director of nursing at the Mid Yorkshire NHS trust which runs Dewsbury’s hospital, said: “We acknowledge that there were failings in this case and that the standards of care provided to Mrs Walton fell below what we would both expect and want for our patients.”
A number of improvements had since been made to elderly care wards including a review of staff levels, walk-rounds by ward sisters at visiting times to address concerns of relatives and snap inspections by clinical and management teams.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “These cases are shocking and tragic. That’s why next year we will introduce new ways of measuring and publishing the experiences that patients have in hospital.
“By shining a light on those organisations which have problems, we will be able to drive up standards so that everyone gets the quality of care they should expect.”