UK hospitals – neglect in elderly care

UK hospitals – neglect in elderly care

A recent report by the Health Service Ombudsman, Ann Abraham, details the appalling and shameful neglect of elderly patients in UK hospitals.

Hydration and healthAlthough the report is new, the scandalous lack of care is not. It has been going on for years.

The Ombudsman’s report details the specific cases of 10 elderly patients who died after being admitted to NHS hospitals. The report confirms that the NHS did not even meet the most basic standards of care.

Callous neglect

Elderly patients are left without food or water, wounds left open and dressings unchanged, patients are unwashed, there is woefully inadequate toileting leaving people soaked in urine or lying in faeces, lack of pain relief, incorrect medication, people left on the floor after falling, and so on.

This article in the Daily Telegraph outlines this “callous treatment of the elderly” and shows what many families have known and complained about for years.

Established hospital discharge procedures are also regularly flouted, leaving elderly patients trapped in the blame game between the NHS and Social Services, left for hours without attention and sent home in an appalling state. One NHS Trust in Merseyside is now also threatening to use anti-trespass laws and court orders to force patients out – to free up beds.

Indifference such as this in the NHS is tantamount to euthanasia – and yet not one single member of staff in any of the hospitals concerned has been sacked or even disciplined. These are surely cases of manslaughter at the very least.

Skewed priorities and lack of accountability

When my mother had a stroke several years ago, she was taken to an ‘Observation’ ward in hospital. Her food was left at the bottom of her bed and she had no access to water. Perhaps staff were planning to simply ‘observe’ her death. I asked a doctor where I could get water for her. He replied that he didn’t know “because he was a doctor”.

It doesn’t take any nursing or medical training to know that food and water are the most vital elements of life. It would seem from his response that common sense is ‘trained out’ of our medical and nursing students.

Whatever happened to the Hippocratic Oath? And why are we paying high salaries to doctors when the training we give them teaches them nothing about sustainable health and people are worse off in their ‘care’?

Where is the Health & Safety Executive when it comes to the safety of patients?

And where is the Human Rights Act in action?

The NHS’s stated principles about human rights, quality of care and respect for patients are empty words.

Soft target

We treat and fund our criminals better than we do our elderly people. It’s not always easy for elderly patients to stand up for themselves and fight back. They are an easy target for sloppy treatment and complacency.

In 2010 alone the Ombudsman received 9,000 complaints about NHS care, with nearly 20% about elderly patients.

If doctors and nurses don’t regard water and food and keeping patients free of bedsores part of their jobs, it fuels the ridiculous notion that health care and social care are two separate things. All the high-tech medical ‘intervention’ in the world will not keep someone alive if they’re dying of thirst or starvation.


As this BBC report shows, Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, added insult to injury when he confirmed that the lack of care outlined in the Ombudsman’s report was “completely unacceptable”, but then implied that the 10 cases it highlighted must be seen in perspective, given the number of patients the NHS sees every day.

What he chooses to ignore here is that, although the Ombudsman’s report highlights just 10 cases, the Ombudsman has looked at 228 cases in this instance – and this is out of the thousands of complaints submitted over the past few years.

New hospital inspections

In response to the Ombudsman’s report, the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) plans to carry out unannounced inspections at 100 hospitals from the beginning of March. Anaesthesia UK reports the move here.

It remains to be seen what impact, if any, the inspections will have. If they’re anything like the routine inspections of care homes, they may simply be box-ticking exercises and have no relevance to the real welfare and hour-by-hour treatment (or lack of) experienced by an elderly patient.



  1. Michelle Ritchie 2 weeks ago

    On the 28th of June 2020 my mam Joan fell over In the living room around 23:15, We phoned for an ambulance at 23:30 and the ambulance arrived at 3 am the following day. On arrival they gave medical attention to Joan however they couldn’t lift her and have to phone for another ambulance to help. The second ambulance arrived around 4 am in the morning they then removed Joan from the House and took her to hospital at Sunderland General.
    On Arrival at hospital she was admitted to ward D42 and around 2 pm on the afternoon she had the operation on her hip. After the operation she come round very quickly, the operation was successful, she was sat up , she was alert , seemed happy in herself and looked quite healthy.
    The next day she still seemed good in herself, she was alert and she phoned us asking for shampoo, a comb, toothbrush and toiletries she was still happy expressing how pleased she was with her everything was going after the operation.
    Between the 29th to the 30th of June she seems to be still in great health and was very alert.
    1st July around 2:30 pm I woman doctor rang my father Alan Surtees saying my mother had no quality of life, she needs a mobility scooter, she couldn’t attend on her own and if she didn’t pull through very well would you want her to be resuscitated.

    We found this very unusual discussion where my father was not very happy at all. The doctor said to my father if she doesn’t get any better in the next couple of hours we will ring you and you will have to come in as she is becoming poorly. The doctor never rang back and after three hours we decided to ring the hospital where we were told that Joan had picked up a bit through the day.
    On the 7th of July around 4 pm in the afternoon the hospital rang my father saying Joan only has about three hours left she’s not very well. Following this father contacted me and I drove up from Derby met with my father and we went in hospital with my brother to see my mother. We got to the hospital around 7 pm where the nurse told us she is very poorly , We asked the nurse would she be able to recover and the reply we got was it’s really up to her and a body to recover now. The nurse left the room where myself my father and my brother was with my mother for a while we noticed she kept pulling her mask off and was quite delirious. My father checked the mask to see what the problem was where we found out she was not receiving any oxygen. We checked the oxygen supply where we realised that the oxygen machine has not been turned on she was getting no oxygen at all, he went out for a nurse to speak to them and found that they hadn’t bothered to connect the oxygen correctly. We then got the oxygen turned on and then she stopped gasping for breath.

    On the 3rd of July we were told by the hospital that my mothers kidneys were failing, she had a catheter on her body however there was no urine coming out into the bag at this time.
    Her stats, blood and oxygen levels were all stable just the kidneys were the problem. But this time I stayed with mum 24 hours around the clock we needed to help get her better and this time was you with her we started to give her water through a syringe every 15 minutes and we noticed that following this the catheter tube started to flow regularly and the bag filled up with urine.

    Following this she started to settle a lot more and responded to questions where we could communicate and she would give us a nod back or smile or shake the head but she could Not hold a conversation.

    On the 4th of July when we came in the hospital we brought some straws in so she could drink the water out of the glass and she could manage this and was quite happy. We noticed the water bag filling up and when we spoke with the night nurse she was also very pleased and said how much my mother had improved and she relaxed and when we touched her needle on her hand she even responded by shouting at us. Following that we went out for dinner at around 5 pm and left mam for a while.
    We returned back to the ward at around 5:45 and when we walked in my mum had a nebuliser on her face which was bright red and she looked very distressed. After watching for a further five minutes I could see as if the life was draining out of her face her head was floppy and she seemed to become very lifeless.
    At this point we went out to see the nurses outside and asked them to come in to see my mother, they come in and said she needs a nebuliser off and took it off to replace it with an oxygen mask and left the room.
    Five minutes Later I could see foam in my mothers mouth , again I went out to tell the nurses and a couple of the nurses plus the auxiliary came in and put a tube down my mothers nose and throat to clean out but only small amount of fluid came through whereupon they left again.
    Within another 30 minutes my mother was gurgling really badly so again I asked the nurses for help and they said there was nothing more to do as they have just been in and seen her.
    I sat for about another 90 minutes with my mum in the room she was gurgling continuously and looked to be deteriorating, this was very upsetting as I was getting no help from the staff who were not interested in her condition at all. The nurses were just sitting outside in the ward chatting amongst themselves rather than helping my mother I went out again and I strongly asked this time for the staff to come in and help her, the male nurse reluctantly come, he tried the suction tubes in the nose and mouth but nothing came up he said she will just have to give coughing up and left the room where upon I was still unhappy with the situation as she was really poorly and was not getting the care that was required.

    For the last three hours she had personal urine the bag was empty which was quite upsetting as we managed to get a kidney is working again but over this time we lost our progress.
    At 8:20 p.m. there was a change of shift where the new staff come on and the Auxiliary nurse who was looking after my mother checked her and said she didn’t look well at all.
    She had been looking after her for the last couple of nights so knew my mother’s condition well on checking her Stats she commented they were all low and said she would get the shift doctor to come and see her, we believe this was Dr Obi a young black doctor and they did everything they could to help save my mother they inserted the drip and gave her antibiotics they placed a new mask on and put on a new bag Following this The nurse went to get the other doctor for young male doctor again tried various things including injections and bloods and I had in fine I informed them what had been happening since 6 pm this evening and I told them I wish you were on the shift to help my mother through the evening.
    The doctor took me outside to say how long will your dad be as your mother hasn’t got long left as he was saying that my father arrived within 15 minutes. On arrival my dad took one look at my mother and says this is not like your mum something is really wrong and she already looks like she’s gone. Sadly within five minutes of this she passed away, she was unresponsive, her eyes were gone and there was no response, we think she may have actually gone earlier.
    After, both the doctor and male nurse apologised for the circumstances and the night we had been through those chaps and the auxiliary nurse was so helpful and if only they were on shift earlier my mother may still be here today. I’m leaving the ward a male doctor stated the milk as he was looking after my mum he tried his hardest to get my mum on to intensive care but they would not take your own he also tried to get her onto the Lung department however they would not accept it as they said she had a leg trauma.
    We are so despondent on how my mother has been treated she deserved better than this and did not receive the quality of care that she should have during her time in hospital to keep her alive, if she had she may still be here today.

    Michelle Ritchie

  2. home care 3 years ago

    Thanks for the post.

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