Squalor and Stench
There is a place in this country of ours that still smacks of the filth and disease of the Work-Houses of the 18th and 19th Centuries. A place where Death’s grim Reaper stalks the corridors waiting to pick off the unwary, the vulnerable and the weak. A place where the smell alone can make you vomit, where the filth drips from people, where food and fluid is rare, where there is an absence of compassion, of human dignity, of plain old fashioned care for one’s fellow citizens. These are dark times and these are dark events where people are left to starve to death, to die from lack of fluids, to die in unimaginable pain, but this isn’t happening in a third world country, this isn’t happening in war torn Syria, or in the slums of India, nor in the poverty stricken countryside of South America. This is happening on our doorstep and on our watch. Death is feasting well on our frail, our weakened, and our people! I cannot describe adequately how shocking it is to know this is happening, and I was unfortunate to see and experience it first-hand. Yes, this borderline manslaughter and abuse is happening in OUR NHS, in the hospitals and the wards people are admitted to, this being the conclusions of the Mid Staffordshire QC Investigation that concluded yesterday. The findings were as above and worse, the phrase “Endemic in the NHS” was emphasised, “lack of care”, “Costs control and reduction before Patient care” were also used to describe the shocking state of affairs in the NHS.
These announcements came a day after the news was filled with a story of a woman who was left in her home by care services, unable to move due to her condition, and she died of starvation and lack of fluid, in her own filth over a 9 day period. Her care provider was raided by Immigration Services and closed down and statutory services just left her to die in the most horrid and unimaginable of ways – just beggers belief this could be allowed to happen. But how many times must we say that phrase “beyond belief” before things change relating to health and social care. It wasn’t that long ago I wrote about that awful state of affairs when you have to teach Nurses to care, well according to the Mid Staffs Report into Hospitals it doesn’t seem to have changed much at all.
In late 2011 I was in hospital after becoming dreadfully ill. I don’t remember my time in Intensive Care but I remember the Ward I was transferred to as I started to recover – my God I remember that awful place, I wasn’t sure if I had gone to hell for a while. I personally saw some horrendous sights, as did my family and I felt more traumatised by my stay in hospital than I did from the illness that nearly took my life. I personally witnessed:
- An old man, in the opposite bed to me, very confused, very disorientated, have food and fluid put on the tray in front of him but he was too confused to feed himself. An hour later the trays were collected and they took them away, after writing in his chart that he had refused anything to eat or drink! This went on time after time, and when the Doctors came round to see him they increased his medication due to his increasing confusion – HELLO, lack of fluids can cause confusion. I did keep telling the staff he was not able to feed himself and they just kept saying he would eat and drink when he was ready – they should have been prosecuted, but that wasn’t the worst thing, not by a long way;
- One guy in the corner was left soaking in his own filth for hours; I mean the stench was putrid through the night. When the staff eventually realised they were horrible to him, humiliated him, and seemed annoyed at him as if he had done it to spite them. Even if he had they had no right to speak to him the way they did or treat him with a level of contempt I had not seen before or since from the so called ‘Caring’ profession. But yet, and unfortunately, there is still more to tell;
- The following evening there was a man who was disturbed, again confused, elderly and frail. At the review at the end of his bed by the medical team, it was said that he should have the ‘cot-sides’ on his bed put up at all times. They weren’t and he fell out of the bed with a crash. I had to ring the buzzer and the staff eventually came, some 15 minutes later or so, asking what I wanted, as if I had awoken them! I pointed to the bed where the old man was lying next to, by now soaked in his own urine as the catheter bag had been squeezed out due to his body weight being on it. Now I am a trained Nurse, trained in first aid, trained in risk assessment, etc., and I know that what happened next was just plain dangerous. This poor guy could have had a broken hip, clavicle, wrist, arm, leg or a combination of any of them, but they didn’t even check him over. Two Nursing Assistants got him under the arms and hauled him onto the bed, said they would change him later and left. And still the cot-sides were left down. They didn’t come back to change him or check on him at all, not once. It was the morning shift that changed him, without the curtains drawn, without washing him!!!!!!!!!!!! He was less than human to them, they did not care, they were emotionless, empty of empathy, they were the worst I had ever seen;
- I felt their distain too. I kept having to ask for water, over and over again, and it took the staff hours to get me some. In the end I asked my family to try to get some for me. The care, the basic functions of nursing, food, fluid, hygiene, compassion, empty words not implemented;
- I experienced anger from one Physiotherapist who came to see me and said, “Let’s go for a walk as you have been in bed for too long according to the ward staff.” I explained I couldn’t walk and she became angry and told me I was at risk of a DVT if I didn’t get out of bed, pulling back my bed sheet. Again I said I was unable to walk but each time she interrupted me and got more and more angry. It took me some time to get across to her that I had a condition of the spinal cord and it was far from being lazy. This time she didn’t say a word and just walked away, I didn’t see her again;
- A man next to me was admitted and I could hear that he was not expected to live out 24hrs; the family were upset of course. He was prescribed a morphine infusion drip to keep him pain free, but it was never put up, even with frequent requests from the family, he died in absolute agony, I will never forget his screams, hours and hours of it all night, was shameful. We would not treat our pets in such a way but the old and the unable to speak for themselves become victims to the care system;
These personal experiences are amongst the worst of my life. I thought I was in hell and in some ways I think this was true, as this was the worst lack of care or compassion I had ever experienced in or out of hospital. At the time I thought this was just my experience and just this set of staff on this ward, but then came the report on Mid Staffordshire NHS Hospital and NHS Hospitals generally by Robert Francis QC. My experiences were the ‘norm’ in some hospitals – I felt sick to my stomach that an icon of free healthcare the world over was allowing people to die in the cruellest of circumstances. One comment in the report made reference to patients having to drink the dirty water from the flower vases they were so thirsty. I just don’t understand how this has happened, how has the ‘caring’ profession become the hate patients profession. Some will blame the Government’s cost cutting, but this is a feeble excuse, how can cost cutting stop people caring?!? They may hate their bosses and be under staffed but that is no reason to take it out on the vulnerable and sick – disgusting. I also note that not one person has been held accountable for what was happening in Mid Staffs, not one person persecuted, as neglect is a criminal offence. No excuses, people need to be prosecuted, from the top management (who is now the Chief Executive of the NHS) to the staff on the frontline killing people. That’s what it boils down to, the killing of people by neglect!
Now I know there are places of pure excellence in our hospitals, places worthy of praise for the high standards of care, but when over a thousand people die in one hospital in needless squalor and pain, and there are another 5 hospital Trusts being investigated, then the needless waist of life will just keep going up. I am a total fan of the NHS despite what you may be thinking, every single day the NHS produces miracles, and it’s all free (!), but it is not the first time it has been criticised for lack of care, but this time we have evidence of the results from the appalling treatment of people in desperate circumstances. The consequences of not caring is out there for the world to see so we need to see our Justice system bring those responsible to account, and we need our NHS to focus on putting the caring back into the Caring Profession!
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