Elderly care in Welsh NHS: New criticism from watchdog

Peter Tyndall
Image caption Peter Tyndall has added his voice to that of the older people's commissioner for Wales

Frail and elderly patients are being failed by a culture of neglect within Welsh hospitals, a watchdog says.

Public services ombudsman Peter Tyndall spoke out a day after older people's commissioner Ruth Marks said some care was "shamefully inadequate".

Mr Tyndall revealed health-related complaints had soared by almost 70% over the last five years.

The assembly government said the vast majority of patients were satisfied with their care.

On Monday a report published by the older people's commissioner for Wales - Dignified Care? - revealed that older people had low expectations of what to expect in terms of dignity and respect while in hospital.

Ms Marks called for "fundamental change" after some patients had been found degraded and humiliated.

Mr Tyndall told BBC Wales' Week In Week Out programme that reassurances from NHS managers had become "increasingly hollow".

He spoke out after a second study, by the Patients Association, revealed how some older people spent their final hours neglected in Welsh hospitals.

The study, to be considered by an assembly government committee later this month, found cases of older patients denied basic care and dignity while in hospital.

It revealed older patients being let down by poor communication, poor record-keeping, and neglect relating to nutrition and hydration.

Mr Tyndall told the programme: "Nobody's trained to neglect patients… it is cultures within our hospitals that sustain and create that neglect… and it is managers who have to challenge that."

And he accused health board managers of not taking his recommendations for improvement over the years seriously enough.

"Reassurances that these type of cases won't happen again are becoming increasingly hollow," said Mr Tyndall.

"I think we have to see some real attention at the front-end management of the NHS to make changes.

"It's very frustrating - frustrating for us, but it's heart-rending for the individuals themselves who are receiving the sort of sub-standard care we're talking about."

The report's author, Vanessa Bourne, added: "There is a pattern of neglect that desperately needs putting right.

"Nobody is looking at how to solve this problem - they're just taking the view that, oh well, they've had a good innings…"

'Begged for water'

Week In Week Out heard from the family of 83-year-old Elizabeth Pearson, who say she suffered poor care after undergoing surgery in Abergavenny's Nevill Hall hospital following a diagnosis of bowel cancer.

Son Mark Pearson described how his mother begged him for water after her IV drip was taken down.

Mrs Pearson died hours later.

Aneurin Bevan Health Board has apologised unreservedly to Mrs Pearson's family "for the distress and upset caused as a result of their experiences".

The board said it was continuing to investigate the family's concerns.

Health Minister Edwina Hart said: "Every day the health service cares for thousands of patients and the vast majority of patients are satisfied with their care.

"However, there will be occasions where the standard of care does not meet our high expectations and we must do all we can to reduce this.

"That is why it is so important that patients or relatives raise concerns to the hospital ward sister or other members of staff to ensure action is taken to address any issues."

Week In Week Out can be seen on Tuesday, 15 March at 2235 GMT on BBC One Wales.

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