Whipps Cross Hospital workers jailed for patient abuse

(L-r) Akousa Sakyiwaa, Annette Jackson, Sharmila Gunda
Image caption The women were employed to look after vulnerable, elderly patients

Three healthcare assistants who abused elderly patients at Whipps Cross University Hospital in east London hospital have been sentenced.

Akousa Sakyiwaa, 38, who was found guilty of four counts of subjecting three patients to ill-treatment and neglect, was jailed for 12 months.

Sharmila Gunda, who was convicted of one count of neglect and one of beating a patient, got a five-month jail term.

Annette Jackson got a suspended jail sentence for a single count of neglect.

As well as the two-month suspended term, she was also ordered to complete 100 hours of community service.

'Scream with pain'

Gunda, of Horns Road in Ilford, Sakyiwaa, of Orange Grove in Leytonstone and Jackson, of Simpson Road in Hounslow, were found guilty at a trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court in June.

Jurors were told 11 elderly, female patients at the hospital had been treated in a way that "simply had no place on any ward".

Prosecutor John McNally said while the patients, who had various conditions including dementia, may have been at times obstructive the three women should have taken good care of them.

He said: "Even when people lack capacity they don't just become bodies to be pushed around."

The ill treatment took place on Beech Ward between 27 February and 30 April of last year.

The women were charged following a Metropolitan Police inquiry into the hospital after a student nurse acted as a whistle-blower.

The women would physically and verbally abuse patients, often telling them to shut up, as well as handling them in a rough and aggressive manner, the trial heard.

Sakyiwaa, held a bed sheet over 87-year-old Joan Massett's head and told her she was dead.

Image caption The healthcare assistants worked on Beech Ward at Whipps Cross

She also slapped Louise Hodges, 92, after cleaning her and grabbed the swollen arthritic knee of 92-year-old Lily Oliver before pushing it towards another worker, causing the pensioner to "scream with pain".

Relatives of victims told the court they were "appalled" to learn what had happened.

In a statement to the court Gwen Mendis, Mrs Massett's daughter, said: "As a family we were all totally shocked and appalled by the things done to Joan. In fact we are still appalled. We feel we have let Joan down."

Joan Stanley, the daughter of Elizabeth Toussaint, 88, who was forced to sit in a chair, said her mother had spoken about poor treatment on the ward but she believed it was due to her condition.

"I felt guilty for not pushing matters further. It's also left me not wanting to get old. I fear ending up in a place like Whipps Cross hospital."

Delivering his sentence, Judge Timothy Lamb QC said: "In short, by your offending you have let down your colleagues, you have damaged patient trust and you have undermined the quality of care for the elderly and vulnerable at Whipps Cross."

In a statement, Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, said: "We apologise unreservedly to the patients of Beech Ward and their families for the indefensible failings in their treatment during their time in our care.

"There can be no place under any circumstances for such behaviour in our trust or in the wider NHS."

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