Monday 21 February 2011

Care for the Elderly Campaign

Thank you The Leicester Mercury for launching this campaign here. An abridged version of the following article is featured on pages 6 and 7 of today’s paper. 

(In case you don't know, The Leicester Mercury is Leicester’s excellent, local newspaper.)

I have transcribed below the full story of my awful experience­, including the failure of PALS (Patient Advice and Liaison Service) to deal with my complaints.

I am sickened by the appalling treatment experienced by my mother during her recent stay at the Leicester General Hospital. I have spoken to many people in the local community about this and sadly my mother’s case would appear not to be an isolated one. Changes need to be made. Future patients must be protected from this negligence.

My mother was admitted to the Leicester General Hospital in January 2011 with what we now know to be a large, inoperable tumour in her oesophagus. She is 88 years old with limited mobility and, due to her condition, was unable to even lift her arms up. She spent several days in the Emergency Medical Unit. She was immobile with a drip in her arm. The buzzer by her bed was broken. No one came when she needed to go to the toilet. She cried as she told me how she was left sitting in her urine for the best part of her first night there. When I visited on her second day in the ward, the nurse who was meant to be responsible for her didn’t even know who she was or why she was there.

Following the diagnosis of the tumour she was moved to Ward 2. There ensued a catalogue of neglect and I have chosen the following to illustrate my concerns:

  • My mother picked up a diarrhoea bug in Ward 2 and was ill with this for two weeks. She lost a lot of weight and, especially as she is unable to eat any solids because of her condition, she became severely mal-nourished. I kept asking for her to be seen by a dietician but this took well over a week to organise.
  • In spite of my continual complaints, her body smelt and she was left wearing nighties, vests and pants that were stained with faeces.
  • The consultant prescribed steroids to be taken each morning but on the second day the pills took eight hours to come up from pharmacy.
  • The consultant said that she must put her swollen feet up on a stool yet it took two days for the nurses to produce one for her. I asked the nurses on several occasions for a stool and one nurse was even so rude as to roll her eyes and turn away from me.
  • A member of staff tipped a full bowl of soup over her but nobody would clean it off her feet and slippers. It was left to a visiting friend hours later to clean her up.
  • A doctor made such a mess of trying to insert a needle into her left hand that he caused the hand and arm to swell to such an extent that she had to have her ring cut from her finger. It was still swollen three weeks later. The consultant tried to tell me it was caused by a canula that had moved around but this was not true. They never managed to fix one into that hand.
  • I made a formal complaint to PALS, the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (I later discovered that it was in fact PILS). They organised a meeting for me with the consultant and the Ward 2 nurse-in-charge. When I turned up for the meeting I found my mother distraught, sitting in her own faceas, half-undressed. She had been pressing the buzzer for 45 minutes but no one had come. I repeatedly shouted for a nurse but there were none. After a further 5 minutes the consultant arrived, found a nurse to clean my mother and took me into a meeting room. I was satisfied that he had put right all my complaints regarding her medical care but the Ward 2 nurse-in-charge did not attend the meeting and by this time I was even more concerned about my mother’s care.
  • I made a second complaint to PALS (or PILS) but received no further response from them. I did, however, receive a response from members of the nursing staff who complained to me, in front of my mother, saying that I should not have reported them.

By the end of January my mother’s general health and morale were so low that I knew I had to remove her from the hospital or she would die there. 

She was finally discharged from the Leicester General Hospital on 3rd February, 2011 and is now in a lovely nursing home where they are not only caring for her original medical conditions but also for the problems caused by the hospital’s negligence. These include bedsores on her bottom, heel and elbow, an infection in her eye duct and a chesty cough. The bed sore on her elbow was assessed by the hospital as ‘red’. In fact, it was so bad that the nurses at the home spent over a week draining infected fluid from it.

I have written to Malcolm Lowe-Lauri, the Chief Executive of the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, informing him about this negligence. I have asked him for a promise of changes to be made. I have asked him to inform me of these changes as and when he makes them. Thankfully my mother is now in a caring and safe environment, the sort of environment that I used to think was offered by an NHS hospital. I would like some reassurance that the Leicester General Hospital can provide that environment for future patients.

I am more than prepared to continue with this complaint on my own but, sadly, I know that there are many other people in Leicester and Leicestershire who have had similar experiences. Some have told me that they were wary of complaining. Others have said that they were too exhausted with the worry of watching a member of their family being treated so badly to complain. Maybe as a group our voice will be louder. I am willing to organise a pressure group in Leicester to see changes made.

If you would like to add your name to the list of people supporting this campaign then please let me know in Comments below or email me on rosalind.kathryn @ Thank you for your support.