NHS patient care still needs major improvement

Posted: 23/11/2012


The Patients Association has released its fourth annual report – ‘Stories from the present, lessons for the future’ - which highlights a series of catastrophic errors in care provided by the NHS.

The association is a healthcare charity which runs campaigns aimed at changing how healthcare in the UK is provided. These campaigns are based upon the motto of ‘Listening to Patients, Speaking up for Change’.

Thousands of patients and relatives call the association’s helpline each year, describing stories of poor care in hospitals and care homes around the country. The association uses these experiences to highlight the issues facing patients today, and to push forward with campaigns aimed at improving both health and social care, as well as providing support for the callers.

The new report draws on the accounts of 13 different patients or relatives, and provides an insight into where things may be going wrong for the NHS.

Examples of poor patient care include a grandmother who had bruising on her leg but died of sepsis; a dementia patient who went missing from hospital and drowned and an asthmatic teenager who died as a result of inadequate care. Other stories tell of patients often being left to soil their beds and ‘do not resuscitate orders’ being put in place without prior consultation with relatives. These types of cases have been described by Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, as a ‘tragic wake up call’ and clearly demonstrate a startling need for change.

The association is therefore encouraging hospital and care home staff to recognise the importance of preserving patient dignity and providing care with compassion, and is looking to spread better practice by working with health professionals.

In 2011, the association launched its Care Campaign, to which 80% of trusts have now signed up. The campaign seeks to improve care in four key areas; support with eating and drinking, assistance going to the toilet, providing adequate pain relief and communicating with compassion.

‘Stories from the present, lessons for the future’ demonstrates that a number of these four areas are still not being addressed and patients are, as a result, still being neglected. The Care Quality Commission is due to launch a ‘State of Care’ report this week which will provide details of the structural issues behind some of these stories.

Mike Farrar, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, stated: “Our purpose is to care and we need to take responsibility for the issues that really matter to the people who use our services. We should never excuse poor standards of care and we need to take bold and decisive action when we see it happening.”

It is hoped that through the association’s committed work to highlighting the failures in patient care and raising awareness of the issues, more decisive action will, in fact, be taken in the future to prevent further failings and other avoidable tragedies.


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