Published today is the Patients’ Association report today that says that patients are often treated rudely, left to wet themselves, have their call buttons taken away, etc – and that it is nurses who deliver such abuse. Let me first say that many nurses do a brilliant job and are often very hard pushed for time. They have a lot of clinical work to do, particularly on high-dependency wards, but also have to spend a great deal of time form-filling. Clearly, however, there are something like 200,000 patients each year whose treatment is completely unacceptable. We would all be horrified if a relative of ours received such rough treatment when in hospital.
Two personal experiences: firstly when I was a volunteer at the Royal Free Hospital (many many years ago) I was on a highly clinical ward where the nurses were rushed off their feet. The patients were dreadfully sick and dying – but when a nurse had time to plump a pillow or stop for a two sentence chat – you could see the patient (despite however awful they were feeling) brighten and perk up – a little. And it is that caring side of nursing that helps recovery just as importantly. Imagine the devastating effect on well-being of being treated rudely or agressively.
Second personal story came from one of my daughters – quite a few years ago at the Whittington – where she had to be admitted as an emergency overnight and was put (because there were no other beds) on the geriatric female ward. During the night there was one old woman calling a nurse because she needed a bed pan. The woman called and called. After an hour, my daughter got up and walked to this woman’s bed and she was crying and saying she was desperate. So my daughter then went to the nurses’ station to tell them of the woman’s need for a bed pan. The nurse said she was too busy and that that woman was always asking for things. A further hour passed and then – inevitably – she wet herself.
Since becoming an MP, I meet regularly (about four times a year) with the Chief Executive of the Whittington – and top priority for me has been about nursing care. In the days gone by that I describe above – there was a nursing shortage under which circumstances – although not excusable – the nurses were rushed of their feet. However, that is not the case now, and in my Annual Residents’ Survey the year before last I asked a question about treatment in hospital. There was praise and criticsim for nurses – as you would expect – but the real shock is that anyone would receive rude or agressive treatment in hospital – and yet there it was. David Sloman, Chief Exec of the Whittington has assured me that nursing care is top priority there now. I just heard yesterday that he has gone to the Royal Free (need to find out why – as the health shake up in London will mean winners and losers.)
So – anyway – the point is I am very glad that the Patients’ Association has done the work and produced these statistics. And whilst we all rush to protect the good nurses – we do need to keep up the pressure on weeding out the bad ones.