Hospitals damned for neglect

PUBLISHED: 12:04 03 September 2009 | UPDATED: 11:16 12 August 2010

VICTIM: John Drake

VICTIM: John Drake

AS an A&E faces permanent closure a shocking report has highlighted the alarmingly poor care levels received in neighbouring hospitals which are expected to take on the extra burden. An urgent review of the basic standards of care in the NHS was called

AS an A&E faces permanent closure a shocking report has highlighted the alarmingly poor care levels received in neighbouring hospitals which are expected to take on the extra burden.

An urgent review of the basic standards of care in the NHS was called for by the Patients Association after it published a dossier of 16 shocking and appalling cases.

Two of these cases were in Princess Royal Hospital, Farnborough and one was at Queen Elizabeth's Hospital, Woolwich, which are both expected to pick up the slack when the A&E at Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup shuts its doors.

At the Bromley hospital a pensioner was left to wet himself whilst nurses ignored his wife's calls for help and carried on surfing the internet, according to the damning report.

And in Woolwich nurses would not even make eye contact with a woman who had just witnessed her mother choke to death, it was revealed. The Times has spoken to the families detailed and put their questions and concerns to bosses at the Princess Royal Hospital - none of whom have yet to reply to our questions.

A WIDOW is demanding changes to healthcare practices at a hospital after her husband suffered "appalling" indignity in a battle against cancer.

Marian Smith, 55, is haunted by the treatment of her beloved husband Colin, who died of cancer on June 16, 2008 aged 62.

Left to wet the bed, lost medical records, cold for lack of a blanket, dehydrated and hungry, a botched cannula, left to fall out of bed TWICE due to no guard rails - this is the damning list of failures at The Princess Royal University Hospital (PRUH) in a report by the Patients Association.

Suffering chest pains on March 16, 2008 Mr Smith was taken by his wife to the PRUH. After tests doctors told him there was a chance he had lung cancer and that an urgent CT scan would be arranged, then he was sent home.

Eleven days later no appointment arrived so Mrs Smith left a message with the PALS department. Some 23 days past and still no appointment arrived.

After pleading with staff down at the hospital a scan was booked in the next day, which confirmed the couple's worst fears. Mr Smith started chemotherapy on April 16.

But on June 10 his health deteriorated and suffering dehydration he was taken to hospital.

Mrs Smith, of Petts Wood Road, Petts Wood, said: "When I saw my husband being put in an ambulance I believed they would look after him, that is my biggest and saddest regret.

"What he went through was appalling, but it makes me worried for people who go into hospital with no loved ones looking out for them.

"I want the hospital to acknowledge that they failed my husband and change their procedures so other people don't have to go through this torment."

On the day Mr Smith was admitted, she said repeated requests by her to get a saline drip for her husband were ignored.

The next morning she returned to the hospital to find blood on her husband's pillow and on the floor from a cut after he fell out of bed trying to get to the toilet. Guard rails on the bed had apparently been "forgotten" by staff.

To her astonishment she returned the next day to find the same thing had happened again.

She said: "That evening my husband wanted to go to the toilet. I needed help from staff to take him, but they were 'too busy' and an hour later my husband had an accident in the bed.

"When I went to get some clean sheets and materials to wash my husband I noticed the nurse was surfing the internet. I was absolutely livid."

She said despite her husband being unable to swallow solid food that is all he was given and no straw or beaker was provided to help swallow fluid.

Her step-daughter, a trainee nurse (now qualified) was with her when a cannula used to administer a drip was allegedly poorly inserted.

Mrs Smith said: "The nurse assured us it had been fitted properly. Later that afternoon my husband complained of a painful arm.

"The cannula had tissued, meaning the whole litre of fluid he was given was in his arm."

Requests for extra blankets for her husband were ignored, so she brought one from home.

He was transferred to the cancer ward where he died two days later.

The couple, both IT workers, were set to retire this year and buy a stone cottage in Yorkshire. Mr Smith leaves two daughters and four grandchildren.

Mrs Smith said: "I'll never know if Colin would have survived if he had been treated when he should have been.

"Something has to happen, procedures have got to change, this isn't just a one off case. Patients are not commodities, these are people's lives we are talking about. My husband wasn't an old man, he was very intelligent."

She said a decision to close the A&E at Queen Mary's Hospital was "short-sighted" and added: "There aren't enough medical staff to cope with the patients they have now without taking more from Queen Mary's when there A&e closes. It's so short-sighted to close their A&E department."

She has written to the Trust's chief executive and to PALS but has so far not had a reply.

RETIRED civil and chartered structural engineer John Drake, pictured, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in May 2008.

He had earlier received some 'excellent' care at the Princess Royal University Hospital (PRUH), Farnborough, but his wife Margaret made a decision to move him to St Christopher's Hospice for the remaining weeks of his life.

He had to return to the PRUH for a MRI scan on July 28 where he was assessed in A&E.

Mrs Drake stayed with her husband until he was taken onto a ward and advised the nursing staff that he could not walk on his own, although he believed he could.

She asked them to call her should there be any developments or if he was unable to settle as he was very confused.

The next day she received a phone call to say her husband had fallen and split his head open, two hours after the incident.

Reflecting on how she felt when told he had fallen, despite her warnings, Mrs Drake, 67, from Orpington, said: "I was angry, I stayed with him until he was on the ward and I told them repeatedly if they needed us they were to phone immediately because he was very agitated. Nobody called me. Then we heard early afternoon the next day that he had fallen. He split his head open. He thought he could walk but he couldn't, he was very, very unsafe on his feet."

Arriving at the hospital, she found him in a confused and dehydrated state. There was no water at his bedside and he had not been washed. Nor did he have a saline drip in.

Describing her husband's frame of mind, she said: "Not good. He just kept asking me what was happening. He was very confused with all the drugs and so on. He was very frightened, it was disturbing. The nurses were very defensive."

The extract from Mrs Drake's report reads: "I asked how this had happened and the staff nurse said to me in what I perceived as a rather aggressive manner 'I was talking to the bed manager'. I responded by asking 'is the bed manager more important than a patient who is desperately ill?' The other nurse that was with the staff nurse at the time then told me 'we told him to go back to bed'.

"I was absolutely shocked that they must have seen my husband walking and not rushed to help him.

"My last words to some of the staff were 'your lack of compassion disgusts me'. All nurses should remember what the definition of a nurse is."

Mr Drake died in his wife's arms on August 26 at St Christopher's Hospice.

Summing up her feelings now, Mrs Drake said: "You think of that person and you see that person and you remember how they looked. It's very, very upsetting.

"I'm very pleased that at last this is getting some attention. I have had several letters from the hospital but am still not satisfied with the response.

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