Gransnet forums


elderly in hospital

(337 Posts)
mamanC Thu 26-May-11 20:39:32

I have spent today full of anger and frustration after hearing the news of the publication of reports on the appalling treatment of the elderly in far too many NHS hospitals.

If you have never experienced such "care" can and wonder if it's all being exaggerated, can I assure you that, after 8 years negotiating the whole system of elderly care both in hospital and in Care Homes when my mother began her nightmare decline,that I witnessed first-hand what the reports are telling us now. And boy are those reports telling the truth.

I swore I would try to do something to alert people to it all after my mother died in 2006, but in fact I just turned my face to the wall I think, emotionally worn out by it all and so utterly saddened by the callousness and cruelty I witnessed.

But it suddenly occured to me today that gransnet might be just the place to ask everyone to bang the drum so loudly that we stop what is happening and offer our voice in support of those good people who work in hospitals and care homes who are trying against the odds to improve matters.Mind, if one more "manager" spouts about "issues to be adressed" and "systems are in place" I shall scream. And if anyone visiting these places notices anything which makes them feel uncomfortable, please drop the polite English demeanour and speak up.

trixie Sun 29-May-11 13:47:51

I've been moved to tears by the stories from sister Gransnetters. I worked for a county association for the blind for a number of years and fought for recognition of the difficulties faced by visually impaired people admitted to hospital.
Simple things like, with the patient's permission (always given in our area), putting a nationally recognised sign of visual impairment (eye with a line drawn through it) above the bedhead; introducing the patients on either side to the VI patient, walking them to the bathroom (mind map) and telling domestic staff to be aware of the eye symbol and to always put things back in the same place, are basic examples of dignity and respect.
Helping VI patients with food and drink is essential; it should also be the case for all patients. Simple nursing care is being lost in the drive to make nursing a degree-level career, leaving humanity on the sidelines.

Gransnetters need to lobby on these points. Andrew Lansley - watch out!

jennybumble Sun 29-May-11 14:11:53

Geraldine, we seem to have a lot of interest in this maybe if the input continues e mails to Andrew Lansley might help. I don't know if it would have any effect as it is driven by lack of caring training and lack of resources, the money all goes to high profile treatments. Mind you I don't know what the answer is, wish I did .

HildaW Sun 29-May-11 14:15:30 what do we do next?

riclorian Sun 29-May-11 14:36:55

I am not a nurse , my only experience has been helping my Mother through many illnesses and hospital stays . I have come to the conclusion that the trend to have smaller wards with a central nurses station has had a detrimental effect on care and cleanliness of those wards . On my many visits to my Mother in hospital I was appalled at the time spent by the nurses and clerical staff talking and laughing while around the corner a patient needed attention . I know we shouldn't harp on about 'the old days ' but with the long wards that we used to have the Sister had her desk at the end and could see any evidence of neglect and lack of cleanliness . and nip it in the bud . Please let's all complain loud and long until the Health Service is back where we all want it to be . WE SHOULD NOT HAVE TO PUT UP WITH THIS .
Sorry , I don't often get this 'wound up' but this IS very important to us all ..

Totrirulody Sun 29-May-11 15:06:20

Yes, Geraldine, don't let it drop. Most of us will have experienced the disastrous at time inhuman system and equally worrying it will be our turn sooner or later. Let's not waste our collective voice.

twizzle Sun 29-May-11 15:23:28

My friend has recently retired after 40 years in nursing. She told me that her Matron (in the first hospital she worked at) told her that she should treat every patient (that she ever came into contact with) as if that patient was her own mother, father, brother, sister, child, and to treat that person with the respect and dignity that she would expect her own loved ones to receive if they ever required hospital care.
She adhered to this ethos throughout her working career, and always believed in those 'words of wisdom'

supernana Sun 29-May-11 15:44:03

So...bring back MATRON - please.

Magsie Sun 29-May-11 16:59:55

I'm afraid that the post of Matron was brought back some years ago. They are now known as Modern Matrons and over 5000 of them are already employed in our hospitals. The emphasis is on the "modern" and I don't think they will ever be the fearsome figures that the old matrons were. They are still supposed to ensure high standards of nursing care though.
I believe that the charity Age UK is also very concerned about the failure of elderly care. Perhaps they would be able to advise us how to take this further?

supernana Sun 29-May-11 17:26:34

Okay, Magsie, let's approach Age UK like a plague of locusts...we must unite in our effort to make our voices heard.

twizzle Sun 29-May-11 17:31:13

Perhaps Geraldine or Josie could arrange a web chat with someone from Age UK.

supernana Sun 29-May-11 17:34:59

twizzle - you are a STAR!

Magsie Sun 29-May-11 18:03:42

Just looking on the internet and in about 1999, Help the Aged (now Age UK) ran a campaign with the Observer newspaper called "Dignity on the Ward" which highlighted all the issues we are still talking about now. The governement at the time promised to address the problems, produce a clear code of practice etc. etc. It would be interesting to follow that up with Age UK if we had a webchat. Did anything happen?

GeraldineGransnet (GNHQ) Sun 29-May-11 19:26:15

There are various things we can do to publicise these stories and get people to take notice. It would be great, for example, to get someone from the Dept of Health on the site for a webchat or Q&A, and to get some other organisations to work with us...I'll have a think and get some advice from the campaign experts at GNHQ. Please keep posting ideas and thoughts.

nanapippa Sun 29-May-11 19:29:54

The trouble is that although we would not want to return to the fear, and extreme working hours of nurses after the war, todays nurses know their rights and (rightly) would not accept the treatment that they received from senior nurses in those days, so the modern matron does not have the same powers. I think when nurses began to take on more medical jobs such as taking blood etc, the basic roles were handed over more to non qualified staff and things started to deteriorate. Don't get me wrong, the non qualified staff can be amazing, but they are not qualified nurses..... I used to teach student nurses and they didn't want to know about the basic side ot care such as feeding, washing etc which I feel is so important. They wanted to hear about the high powered stuff and I feel strongly that is when and where things went wrong. Lets be honest here, the same thing has happened accross the board. The police can't give a lad a clip round the ear and drag him home to dad to be reprimanded, school kids are no longer afraid of their teachers etc etc. I am not saying that was right, but there is no fear of consequenses nowadays........
I'll get off my soapbox and go and cook supper now!!

Magsie Sun 29-May-11 21:19:50

nannapippa is absolutely right. As the junior doctors' working hours were reduced, nurses took on many of their roles and basic patient care was passed to nursing assistants. On children's wards, most of the care is carried out by parents and on general adult wards, most patients are fairly independent. Wards for the elderly need a higher ratio of assistants but I don't know if they get them. The elderly sick are vulnerable because they are often very dependent and can't always communicate their needs. I wonder if the assistants don't really understand the nature of conditions like dementia and think the elderly patients are just being difficult?

em Sun 29-May-11 22:00:57

Agree that many recent changes have not led to improvement but I'm still wondering why the decision was made to demand that all nurses should be qualified to degree level. I know that many bright young people are excellent nurses, but having completed their degrees many are understandably looking at acquiring experience which will lead them to promotion and are not prepared to stay on the wards. At the same time we have lost some wonderful, caring and compassionate people who used to be known as assistant or auxiliary nurses. They were there because they wanted to work with patients on wards, on a day-to-day basis. My niece achieved a degree in social work and is working in fostering and adoption. However her first choice of career was midwifery. She's a bright girl but attaining the necessary 'A' level in physics was beyond her. I believe she would have made an excellent midwife but didn't have the on-paper qualification she needed. Do our vulnerable elderly need academic qualifications more than they need compassion and sympathy? Can't we go back to recruiting people who CARE rather than those who are better-qualifeid academically.

nanapippa Sun 29-May-11 22:33:25

I so agree with you em. Some of the best caring nurses were SENs who were phased out many years ago. They were the mostly (but not always) the less academic carers who ensured a high standard of real nursing care and were often employed in large numbers on elderly care wards for their excellent nursing skills. Yes, you have reminded me Magsie, it was all to do with junior drs working hours. Thank you for that. I would love to have the opportunity to be a matron on an elderly care ward and see if the standard of care can be raised....

mamanC Sun 29-May-11 23:05:55


I have just come online and I'm fighting tears to hear you all showing such determination to actually take this higher. I've just emailed Minette Marrin of The Sunday Times to thank her for a superb article and Icame onto gransnet to see if anyone else had written in. I said to Minette that I felt as an ordinary punter I could do little and here you are all saying YES WE CAN!!!!

They say the Baby Boomers won't go quietly into old age....let's prove them right.

I would like somehow to get nurse and doctors in the system now to have the courage to speak out. I know they fear for their jobs and it takes enormous courage to stick your head above the parapet but would you believe the consultant for elderly care at my mother's hospital encouraged me to make a formal complaint because she said she actually had no clout, the managers and the politicians were in charge.

I'm sick of politicians and NHS professional talking among themselves about the sort of NHS we should have and confounding us all with figures and statistics. Their benchmark is money, (and their own political/managerial positon) ours is compassion. GO GIRLS!

harrigran Mon 30-May-11 00:14:41

What a good idea gkal, a signal for our family if we are in need of rescue. I have a dread of not being able to speak up for myself.

JessM Mon 30-May-11 07:34:20

mamanC I am sorry to hear about your daughter. Gall bladder out and symptoms not gone, poor woman. Generally she will get better diagnostic doctoring if she goes to a big teaching hospital where they have all the technology, plus the cleverest doctors. She does not have to go to the local hospital these days. But I know from personal experience that it is difficult with adult children when they are ill as you are not in charge! A private consultation may not help unless it gets you bumped up a surgery queue maybe. But she has had surgery and private doctors don't have any magic in their comfy consulting rooms.
Back to the main thread. There is a problem with nursing recruitment. It used to be one of the few professions open to women 40 years ago. Think back to a book entitled Careers for Girls... There was a supply of nicely brought up, intelligent, kind women who were specially raised for the purpose! Who wants to be a nurse these days - there are so many other competing options. The government relies on importing nurses from other countries and this keeps the costs down. The last gov. made zero efforts to improve recruitment - (contrast to teaching where they tried hard). Care in NHS ranges from fantastic to crap. I too have seen the poor show put up when patient is elderly and really needs basic nursing. My mother in law was in hospital last winter and it was mediocre as far as nursing goes. I have also witnessed the stark difference between the quality of GP care she is given in her home area (terrible!) and in the area where she have been staying with my sistern in law (Dr Ali, would you like me to adopt you!). Maybe a mass sit in of relatives who wont leave at the end of visting because they dont trust the nurses to do basic care?

Magsie Mon 30-May-11 10:34:59

Good point about the SENs nannapippa! My MIL was one- often they were motherly women who were not academic but just wanted to nurse. I think a lot were more mature ladies who went into nursing when their children were older and didn't want to do the longer SRN course.
All NHS wards & departments are required to have the most efficient "skill mix". This means that they won't pay graduate nurses to clean or perform basic care tasks when they can be done by lower paid unqualified staff. The number of qualified nurses is then cut down to just cover the high-end nursing tasks. Some wards have excellent support staff who know exactly what they are doing and it works very well. I suspect elderly care is a less popular specialty and may have a high turnover of unqualified staff. A lot will depend on how well supervised they are and again I suspect some are just left to it because the qualified staff are rushed off their feet.
The hospital I worked at did a pilot study, appointing ward housekeepers to co-ordinate non-medical care. It worked really well but was abandoned because it cost money and did not raise the income of the hospital. Hospitals are run as businesses now and it is hard to get funding just to improve quality of care. sad

Joan Mon 30-May-11 12:32:56

I have read all this and find it terrifying. It seems that if you are a patient in hospital in the UK, you need a friend or relative beside you much of the time, to protect you. It makes me think I'd top myself rather than end up old and vulnerable and in hospital.

I now live in Australia. I can't say our hospitals are better for old people, because I simply don't know. When my husband had his knee replacements in a public hospital here, in his mid 60s, most of the care was fine. Just one nurse was nasty and inefficient, so I wrote a letter of complaint. The complaint was acted upon - they'd had a few verbal complaints about this same nurse, and my letter was the final straw that gave them the right to force her into retraining.

Cleanliness is OK in our local hospital: they have been top of the cleanliness league after official inspections. I only know this because a close friend is the hospital librarian. Incidently, they get lots of Doctors from the UK here as immigrants, or here for a year or two. They usually say their working conditions are better here, which is another point of view about UK hospitals, I suppose. If the staff are unhappy, perhaps it reflects on patient care?

I don't really like to compare, and I hate it when I read bad things about my home country, which I miss dreadfully, but it looks to me that things are going to have to change or there will be a revolt.

supernana Mon 30-May-11 13:08:31

Lovely, caring Gransnetters...I have a serious ongoing problem with my bowel - surgery may indeed be the only option if I'm to maintain my dignity when I'm "older". The point is, I am so TERRIFIED of going into hospital [not because of any pain...I'm no wimp] but because as I'm already considered to be "elderly", I dread being made to feel an attention-seeking nuisance - or worse - picking up a rotten bug that may finish me off before I get the chance to lodge a valid complaint. I sense an uprising! I'm ready to add my voice to the YELLS of dismay. We have please, let us make a fuss...

mamanC Mon 30-May-11 14:04:36

Thank you for info re private care JessM. Very helpful.

The input from nurses and from people abroad is really interesting. My friend's daughter had exactly the same gall bladder op. as my daughter, only in France. Her treatment and nursing was superb. The French and German systems are so often quoted as among the best in the world and so how they fund their systems must work. Perhaps our fear in this country of losing our "free" care is holding us back from a real honest discussion of whether we are getting the system we deserve through ignorance of the alternative funding systems available?

We do have to recognise the vast changes in medical knowledge and in the demands we put on our health service and that we can't put the clock back to some halycon days we imagine once existed in the health service. The technological advances, however, do seem to have drowned out the human aspects ,so that now nurses are technicians reading their monitors more than the faces of the human beings in front of them.

It's interesting that when people go for these Well Women/Well Man check-ups they refer to them as their M.O.T's! It's almost an instinctive recognition that we are being treated more and more as the sum of our body parts alone. Perhaps the day will come when nurses and doctors will pull out one of those trolleys mechanics use to examine us from underneath, to check our gasketfs and oil sumps!!!

The Arab world seems to be having its Spring fired from below. Dare I hope that the ordinary punters, the end users of the NHS, us, might edge closer to making those in power listen?

And supernana..........we're on your sidexx

P.S. Still can't do the smilies! They're all winking at me on the page here but click as I might I can't get them to leap onto my text. But if I could I'd send you one, supernana!

twizzle Mon 30-May-11 14:18:23

mamanC type the word (including the square bracket) which is next to the smiley that you want to use.