By Vivienne Russell
15 February 2011
NHS trusts need to respond to today’s damning findings of
the health ombudsman and ensure they have systems to check that every patient
receives the best possible care, health service managers have said.
Ombudsman Ann Abraham found serious care failings in the
care of elderly patients in hospitals. Her report, Care and compassion?, was based on
ten independent investigations into complaints about NHS care for older people.
It highlighted common failings in pain control, nutrition and communication
between patients and their families.
Responding, the NHS Confederation urged
trusts to keep on top of their data and make sure they learn lessons.
chief executive Nigel Edwards said: ‘NHS trusts needs good systems in place to
make sure every patient’s experience is the best it possibly can be. They need
to keenly gather information about when things go wrong and to ensure they
implement the learning.
'They also need to be acutely sensitive to the needs of
particular groups of patients, and this is especially true in the case for the
But Edwards added that it was important to put the ten cases
highlighted in perspective. ‘The NHS sees over a million people every 36 hours
and the overwhelming majority say they receive good care. But I fully
appreciate that this will be of little comfort to patients and their families
when they have been on the receiving end of poor care.’
Abraham’s report said that her investigations revealed ‘an attitude – both
personal and institutional – which fails to recognise the humanity and
individuality of the people concerned and to respond to them with sensitivity,
compassion and professionalism’.
She added: ‘The
reasonable expectation that an older person or their family may have of
dignified, pain-free, end-of-life care, in clean surroundings in hospital is
not being fulfilled. Instead, these accounts present a picture of NHS provision
that is failing to meet even the most basic standards of care.’
ombudsman said these were not isolated cases, pointing out that of the 9,000
complaints investigated last year, 18% concerned the care of elderly people.
Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing,
said the ombudsman’s report should be a ‘wake-up call’ for the NHS, both
managers and frontline staff.
added: ‘We know that the NHS is expected to save up to £20bn in England
alone, and with 27,000 posts already earmarked to be lost, it is inevitable
that there will be an impact on frontline care.
'Where we have seen poor
standards of care in the past, we have often found an underlying failure in
ensuring safe staffing levels and the right level of skill. Just last week, 80%
of RCN members surveyed told us that they did not have enough staff to deliver
good quality care to patients.’