"Very concerned about treatment of the elderly in this hospital, after witnessing my mother's 'care'"

About: Countess Of Chester Hospital / Older people's healthcare

(as a relative),

My complaints are with regard to a number of issues that came to my attention when my Mum was recently admitted to the Countess of Chester Hospital and eventually died and concern the poor standard of basic care that the staff provided for her in the last week of her life. I hope you could investigate the matters raised.

My Mum had been suffering from cervical cancer for four years but was admitted to the hospital in March 2010 and diagnosed with bronchial pneumonia aswell. In the night, 2 days after she was admitted Mum was transferred to Ward 51, in a single bedroom.

Upon entering the room I noticed it was very cold and the window was open. I shut the window and put my hand on the radiator and realised the radiator was not working. I reported this to the porter who had bought Mum to the room. He in turn told either the ward sister or staff nurse who confirmed there was a problem with the radiator and in turn tried to contact the maintenance department to affect a repair. I was then told that no one from maintenance could attend until the morning and my Mum was given an extra sheet to keep her warm. Do you think this is the correct procedure for an elderly woman who has been diagnosed with bronchial pneumonia?

The hospital Trust’s response to this complaint is that an “action plan” has now been prepared. Surely an “action plan” does not have to be written for something as basic as this? And if it does it should have been written when the hospital was initially opened and the question needs to be asked, did not the medical staff realise that a cold room is not an appropriate place for an elderly patient with bronchial pneumonia, or is this the first case of bronchial pneumonia that staff at the hospital had dealt with?

I put it to you that even someone who has no medical knowledge at all would know that this is not good practice and would not need an “action plan” to inform them of such basic care!

On the same day I returned to visit my Mum with other members of the family. After we had been there approximately 2 hours I realised that my Mum had not been changed. Bearing in mind that Mum had been suffering from cervical cancer with the associated blood losses for four years and now in the last week of her life was doubly incontinent. I drew this to the attention of a member of staff and was told Mum would be changed “in a minute”. This was a standard reply to almost anything I asked a member of staff during the week my Mum was in hospital. My Mum had to wait a further 4 hours to be changed. The effect that this had was to make her feel uncomfortable and gave her lack of dignity. This was predictable and preventable. The attitude that was portrayed to me from a lot (but not all) of the staff was the staff were trying to run a hospital and could not be inconvenienced with looking after elderly dying patients.

The Trust’s response to this complaint is that it has produced an “action plan to remind staff of the importance of monitoring and changing patients. ” My response to this is, surely an action plan has already been produced to inform staff of how to clean patients or is this first patient they have needed to clean since the hospital opened?

Also whilst my Mum was in hospital £20.00 was taken out of her handbag (which was in a zipped holdall) and lost by a member of staff and I was told that the money had been put in a safe for safe keeping but no receipt was ever issued. Mum was also aware that the money had been taken and until she lost consciousness kept asking me to make sure that the money was returned but because Mum was gravely ill this was the last thing on my mind. However when Mum died my daughter asked the nursing staff for the money to be returned. The money however was never located and I made an official complaint but despite a thorough internal investigation, was never found and the member of staff who took it never owned up to this.

However a few months after my mum had died, I received a cheque with a letter of apology from the legal services department. In this instance it is not about the money but the principle of what happened.

Other instances of this kind of behaviour occurred during my Mum’s brief stay in hospital, concerning her tablets not being given in the correct sequence and a barrier cream to alleviate soreness of her cervical tumour (which had been specifically prescribed by my Mum’s consultant prior to her admittance). The doctor in charge was also ill informed as to some of my Mum’s medication as some of her medication was not even listed on her medical notes which I can only assume is yet another act of poor attention to detail. When I informed the ward doctor I was told this medication was not on her notes and to found out what the missing medication was called myself. Surely this is the job of the doctor! They then told me bluntly, that my Mum would probably be dead by the end of the week! I then had to remind the doctor that this lady that she showed little regard for was my Mother and that she should be treated with a little more respect and dignity.

Eventually after making a number of telephone calls I found the name of the barrier cream myself and informed the doctor who instructed ward staff to apply it. Unfortunately the staff were untrained as how to use this cream or for what it was for and started to apply the cream to dry skin on my Mum’s feet and it was only as a result of my Mum informing the staff that it was applied to the cervical tumour.

I also observed other elderly patients who could not manage to eat or drink for themselves not being fed by the nursing staff and it is my belief that if you cannot feed yourself in hospital you will starve. In the last couple of days of my Mum’s life when she could no longer drink properly we noticed that her lips were completely dry due to the fact that the staff were not even moistening them. Fortunately we visited and stayed with her for about 12 hours a day but on our return it was obvious they had not been moistened.

I had an unbiased opinion of the NHS and this hospital until I witnessed first hand the events I have mentioned in this letter and am now extremely disappointed and concerned with the attitude and care that some of the staff and hospital provide.

I fully understand that everyone dies and when a close relative dies it is going to be upsetting but the staff showed little or no compassion to the situation and I had to point out to the doctor that it may be a run of the mill situation for her to have a patient die but to me it was the worst thing that could possibly happen and my life would never be the same again. The attitude that came across was why invest time and money on an elderly patient who is terminally ill.

On a separate occasion last August I had course to attend the hospital in association with my job. It was on this occasion whilst in the assessment area that I came across another incident of poor care to an elderly patient. For three hours myself and my colleague heard an elderly female patient asking for help desperately from a nurse.

She repeated this over and over again. I opened the door of the cubicle where we where and I had clear vision of the cubicle where the elderly female patient was calling for help. During the three hour period I saw a nurse go into the cubicle and tell the elderly patient sternly to be quiet and that she was going to shut the cubicle door as she was disturbing the other patients. The nurse then shut the door on this patient and I heard her say to other member of staff that the patient was annoying her. The other members of staff simply ignored this patient completely.

In my opinion all this elderly confused patient wanted was someone to hold her hand for a moment and reassure her everything was alright. Again this is another instance were someone like a nurse who is supposed to be of a caring disposition showed no caring or compassion. I wrote a separate letter of complaint over this matter having made a note of the patient’s name and gave a description of the nurse involved.

I have written to the complaints department of the hospital, the Chief Executive and the Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman as to my observations and complaints and have asked as to what action has been taken against the staff and requested that disciplinary action be taken against the members of staff that were, in my opinion, negligent, and have written documentary evidence of the replies but I feel that nothing will be done other than for them to apologise for the bad practices that were carried out.

Despite a request the Trust will not inform me if they have taken any disciplinary action. The bad practice and treatment of the elderly at this hospital that I witnessed (and other hospitals) needs exposing so that members of the public know what to expect when family and friends are admitted to hospital. I have also written to the hospital and asked them under The Freedom of Information Act as to how many complaints they have received regarding the lack of basic care of patients from 1st January 2007 until 23rd June 2010 to which they replied 141. I believe I have only just scratched the surface as to what is going on in this hospital and am now at a loss as to where to turn for assistance in this matter.

If you wish to discuss this matter further with me, I would encourage you to contact me.

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