Patient Stories

Patient Stories 2013: Time for Change

Patient Stories  2013: Time for  ChangeThis is our fifth annual collection of patients’ stories.

The first was written in the fevered atmosphere of the run up to the General Election. The next three were produced against the backdrop of colossal upheaval as the Health and Social Care Act made its way through the parliamentary process to its implementation one year later.

This year’s collection of stories is different to those that we have used before. In previous years the focus of these reports, and our CARE campaign, has been on the care of the elderly. This remains a concern, despite the huge amount of hard work that is taking place to improve care in this area. This year the focus is on what could be the single biggest development in healthcare since the launch of the NHS plan over a decade ago – the publication of recommendations of the Inquiry conducted by Robert Francis QC into failings of care at Mid Staffordshire.

To read the report, please click here.

Patient Stories 2012

Patient-stories-2012In November 2012 we published our fourth annual ‘Patient Stories’ report- a series of case studies highlighting shocking experiences of poor care that  still scare the NHS.

‘Stories from the present, lessons for the future’ catalogues 13 accounts from patients or relatives who have experienced poor care in hospitals and care homes around the country. The report is a snapshot of the many stories of poor care heard by the Patients Association Helpline, and reflects wider shortcomings in the NHS, which require change in both Westminster and on hospital wards.

The Patients Association is already working with many Trusts to address poor care. We are doing this in two ways. The first is by working within the healthcare community to spread best practice and to encourage hospitals and care homes around the country to focus on ensuring dignity and compassion for their patients and residents.

The second is by working in partnership with the Care Quality Commission, who launch their ‘State of Care’ report on Friday 23rd November, to share data and information on health providers who are letting patients down, ensuring where appropriate action, is taken against those who are letting patients down.

In 2011 The Patients Association also launched our Care Campaign, which asks Hospital Trusts to sign up to improving standards in some of the fundamental areas of care that matter most to patients, such as communicating with compassion or assisting with toileting.

Case studies in Patient Stories:

– Mr Bowman, was admitted to hospital suffering with Meningitis. He also had Alzheimer’s Disease but despite concerns from the family, a number of disappearances and a pledge from staff that they would check on him every 15 minutes Mr Bowman went missing. He was sadly found drowned 4 miles downstream from the hospital.

– Margaret Allen’s sister, Joan Girdiefski, was very concerned by the care she received during her last stay in hospital. She was given numerous tests, without explanation and a DNR order was placed on her file without consultation.

Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of The Patients Association, said,

“The sad conclusion of this report is that still far too many patients are being shockingly let down by the NHS every day. These appalling and tragic cases serve to highlight the devastating consequences when poor practice is left unchallenged and unchanged. Behind each one are many more unheard voices.

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.

Of the relatives and patients who contact our Helpline most wish their experiences could have been different, but they all want to use their stories to influence policy makers. As we stand on the brink of the most radical shake up of the NHS in generations, 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. ”

Patient Stories 2011

Patient-stories-2011In November 2011, the Patients Association launched its third Patient Stories report – “We have been Listening, Have you been Learning”.

The report contains some shocking accounts of care received by patients in hospitals across the country, focusing on four key fundamentals of care-communication, access to pain relief, assistance with toileting and help with eating and drinking.

The accounts show that patients continue to be failed in these key areas.  Cases included in the report include

  • Jessie Thayer, whose daughters despaired at the failure of nurses to attend to her basic hygiene needs whilst she was a patient at Frimley Park Hospital.
  • Helena Grimwood, who whilst being treated at Southend Hospital was often left ‘desperately thirsty’ according to her daughter, who also said nurses neglected her toileting needs.
  • Brian Smith, whose wife alleges that she had to run out into the corridor screaming for help as her husband lay dying in his bed, because nobody answered the call buzzer.
  • Barry Woodward, who had to wait seven hours for an ambulance and was then not given any pain relief on arrival at hospital.

Launching the report Angela Rippon OBE, Vice President of the Patients Association said “This report raises serious issues about the quality of care that patients are receiving on our hospital wards.  It’s not enough for hospitals to say that they have recognised care hasn’t been good enough in the past and promise improvements for the future.”

Speaking about the launch of the report Patients Association Chief Executive Katherine Murphy said “The accounts of care contained in this report shames everyone involved.  It’s simply not good enough for this report to be recognised and then business to carry on as usual. There needs to be a culture shift in the way we treat patients on our wards. I would continue to urge patients experiencing similar care to contact our Helpline on 08456 08 44 55. ”

To read the report, please click here.

2009 and 2010

Patient-stories-2009-2010In 2009 the Patients Association released ‘Patients not Numbers, People not Statistics’ a collection of 16 firsthand accounts of patient care. The report prompted widespread concern about care of older patients in hospital and was discussed in the House of Commons and House of Lords. To read the report click here.

At the time of its release we received many more reports from patients and carers and continued to receive them many months later. Determined to cont
inue to expose the issue of neglect in hospitals we decided to publish a follow up report in December 2010, ‘Listen to Patients, Speak up for Change’.

Claire Rayner had led the previous report in 2009 with a powerful foreword and would have been troubled that yet another report was required to highlight the ongoing problems. In her memory her son Jay Rayner wrote the foreword instead.

The report was launched with the support of the Daily Mail, a long standing voice on these issues through their own “Dignity for the Elderly” campaign. Alongside calling for the introduction of independent matrons to supervise care for patients we called for a review of the NHS complaints process.

The reaction to our campaign was again overwhelming and it was reported across the media. Numerous celebrities and politicians supported our campaign including;

  • Dame Vera Lynn
  • Carol Vorderman
  • Ann Widdecombe
  • Jilly Cooper
  • Esther Rantzen
  • Simon Cowell
  • Duncan Bannatyne

At the same time we launched a campaign to raise £100,000 for our Helpline, without which these issues would not have come to light. Whilst we had been able to help the many thousands that had contacted it over the years, awareness is still too low and we needed the funds to employ full time staff to get out and spread the word and deal with the extra inquiries. We managed to raise over £120,000 thanks to the generosity of the Mail readers and others, securing the future of the Helpline. To find out how we’ve been able to do a fantastic amount of great work with the investment, see our Helpline page.

The Government recognised the importance of the issues we were raising and responded by asking the NHS regulator the Care Quality Commission to conduct a 100 inspections of hospitals in partnership with senior nurses who knew what good care looked liked. We were invited to sit on the advisory group for the inspection programme alongside Age UK, Action on Elder Abuse, the Residents and Relatives Association and the Royal College of Physicians.

Beginning in March the results of the reports have been published over June and July 2011. Whilst sadly expected, based on the evidence received on our Helpline, we were still dismayed to learn around 1in 10 hospitals are failing on basic standards.

A national report is due in September and the Patients Association hopes that we can press for more ongoing work to be done. We were glad to see the inspection programme but think this level of scrutiny shouldn’t be a one off, it should be the norm. Patients and carers deserve nothing less.  Our proposal for independent matrons to be based in hospitals to provide constant supervision may be a big step, but until all NHS hospitals prove they can meet even the most basic needs of patients we need to take radical steps to prevent these long standing problems from continuing.

Response from the Government

Rt-Hon-Andrew-Lansley-MPThe Secretary of State for Health, the Rt Hon Andrew Lansley MP, responded to our most recent patient stories report, Listen to Patients, Speak up for Change, saying, “I personally welcome the way the Daily Mail and Patients’ Association are focussing on the safety and dignity of care for patients. I am determined that we will have a continuous culture of improvement in the NHS. Patient experience and feedback are integral to achieving that improvement.

I want to see unannounced inspections led by experienced and senior nurses. They will both understand the difficult job that NHS staff are trying to do but also understand how quality of care and dignity for patients is capable of being achieved and of identifying where failings are occurring.

As an immediate course of action, I am asking the CQC to begin a series of unannounced inspections as soon as possible by teams led by experienced senior nurses (including matrons) who know what is and is not an acceptable level of care.

I am asking CQC to publish a report at the end of this series of inspections which will shed light on the level of care provided to older patients and the actions that hospitals can take to improve this care.

But in the longer term: The Health Bill will also provide for the creation of local HealthWatch organisations to hold services to account.  When there are local reports of poor care of elderly people of the kind reported by the Patients Association this week, I want the local HealthWatch to be able to trigger independent inspections of NHS hospitals.

Inspection teams will be able to visit hospitals unannounced and will be able to draw on the experience of patients themselves and their family and friends, and will have the power to identify and tackle problems as a matter of priority.

Where these inspections reveal poor levels of care, CQC will then be able to use its enforcement powers to ensure that real improvements are made.”