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Thursday, 7 February 2013

NHS: Here we go again

Photograph: Wpa Pool/Getty Images

[From an entry in December 2011. Further reading: Death by Care]

"All smiles but the reality is different. The latest depressing report illustrates the plight of patients in NHS hospitals with dementia. Can anyone be surprised? There have been endless reports of problems in the NHS and care homes where nurses don't care as they should followed by promises to do something about it but the chances are, unless you are one of the privileged few, you have a high chance of dying in misery in a care home or hospital, disorientated, dirty, dehydrated and thoroughly depressed. Yes, there are pockets of excellence which politicians and the fortunate praise as shining example of the modern NHS but they are far outweighed by reports of poor care by people who seem to regard patients as fodder simply to keep them employed with the minimum of effort. Read about it herehereherehereherehereherehere.... . The reports are endless. In January 2010 Michael Parkinson in his role as the government's dignity ambassador condemned standards in care homes and hospitals as "downright unacceptable". In January 1999 a two-year campaign to improve "shocking levels of ill treatment" for elderly people in hospital began but we are still reading about it more than twelve years later.

This from a former dedicated nurse: "What has happened to basic nursing care, to observation, to humanity? Excuses citing undermanned wards, overworked staff simply will not do. If we were short staffed we worked twice as hard to ensure patient comfort. Nursing has never been an "easy job", working long hours without overtime pay, sacrificing a social life are just a few examples encountered but the rewards were so good, seeing patients get well and return home, which was surely why nursing was chosen by many, when vocation was an easily understood word."

There is nothing to smile about. The system has failed. Government ministers should stop talking it up and get back to basics. The old system worked so get nurses out of college and back on the wards to learn patient care, hands on."


The Francis Report makes grim reading, and so it should. Patients in British hospitals have died of hunger, thirst and bedsores while the Government worries about miscreant prisoners dining unwittingly on halal food in which traces of pig DNA were discovered. Many of the patients in the Mid Staffs Hospital would have been treated better in one of HM Prisons than in the care of the NHS. In response the Prime Minister wants to target nurses' pay so that it is 'tied to how well they look after patients', a sure recipe for disaster. All nurses should look after all patients well. That is their job. If they do not see it that way they should not be employed in a caring profession. 

After joining the Mid Staffordshire Hospitals NHS Trust as its Chairman in an effort to turn it around Sir Stephen Mosswho has over forty years experience in nursing, said that there is something "fundamentally wrong" with the nursing profession and the way it is focused at the moment. He added, "the crisis facing nursing was not caused by a shortage of staff on wards. There needed to be changes in the way nurses were trained to make sure they "are prepared for the real world of the NHS rather than a classroom." All the more surprising then were the conclusions of the Willis Commission on Nursing Education which gathered evidence on "the best methods of delivering pre-registration nursing education in the UK and how efficient the current education system is; in particular, looking at the balance between workplace and classroom learning". However, it was the RCN, the nurses trade union which commissioned the independent review!

In their conclusions and recommendations the Commission remarked: "There is a tendency to view the past as a golden age for health care (often around the 1950s), reinforced by popular nurse memoirs and television dramas. Yet there is much evidence to the contrary – overall health and life expectancy are better than ever..." - Not for the deceased who were left in the 'care' of the Mid Staffs Hospital, nor for my mother who suffered the same fate in a different NHS hospital. 

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