Published on 26 May 2011 Sections

Elderly care standards: three health trusts break law

As inspectors raise serious concerns about care for the elderly in some NHS hospitals, one woman tells Channel 4 News that the care her 96-year-old mother received was “abominable”.

Inspectors have raised serious concerns about care for the elderly in some NHS hospitals. Three health trusts were found to have broken the law (Getty)

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has published the first 12 reports from an England-wide inspection programme into standards of care at 100 hospitals.

Three health trusts have broken the law when it comes to providing older people with essential standards of care on dignity and nutrition. There were concerns about another three.

The CQC told Channel 4 News it estimates up to a fifth of all hospitals could be failing the elderly on basic standards of nutrition and dignity.

The Alexandra Hospital in Worcestershire, Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust and the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead were seriously criticised.

At the Alexandra inspectors expressed “major” concerns about nutrition.

Staff said they sometimes had to prescribe drinking water on medication charts to “ensure people get regular drinks”.

At the Royal Free Hospital inspectors found staff did not always make sure people had enough to eat and drink.

While many patients got help with eating, some did not and had their trays taken away, and staff rarely asked patients if they had enough to drink.

In Ipswich inspectors found patients left in night clothes all day and not always taken to the toilet away from where they slept.

Records were not always up-to-date, and staff spoke among themselves when caring for patients rather than to the patient.

Staff reported being too busy and over-stretched to provide the care they wanted to, inspectors noted.

Less major concerns were found at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in London, Homerton University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in London and the Wye Valley NHS Trust.

'My mother's care was abominable'

Angela Lawrence's mother, Muriel, was taken into Ipswich Hospital in July 2009 with a suspected hip fracture. She was 96-years old and died four weeks later.

Angela told Channel 4 News that her mother was left in wet nappies rather than being helped onto a commode: "Mother ended up with a huge bedsore. She was in agony and at that stage she had given up and said she wanted to die.

"I was desperate. I wanted to take her in a wheelchair and get her out of there."

She added: "Lack of care and the basic necessities of food and drink meant she lost the will to live. To treat an elderly person like that was abominable."

In response to Angela Lawrence's concerns Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust said: "We are very sorry about what happened to Mrs Browning, we have investigated her case and we need to understand what additional concerns Mrs Lawrence has."

Findings ‘wholly unacceptable’

The three hospitals failing to meet essential standards could face enforcement action if they do not show improvement.

Jo Williams, chairman of the CQC, said: “Many of these reports describe people being ‘cared for’ in the truest sense.

“Sadly, however, some detail omissions which add up to a failure to meet basic needs – people not spoken to with respect, not treated with dignity, and not receiving the help they need to eat or drink.

“These are not difficult things to get right – and the fact that staff are still failing to do so is a real concern.”

Michelle Mitchell, charity director at Age UK, said some of the anecdotal evidence, such as medical staff having to prescribe water to ensure patients are hydrated, was “wholly unacceptable”.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley admitted the failure of some hospitals to get the basics right was “unacceptable”.

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