We need to all care for our old folk in hospital

GOOD, basic care is a human right which should begin with a child’s first cry and end with a person’s last breath.

GOOD, basic care is a human right which should begin with a child’s first cry and end with a person’s last breath.

Which is why a report by the Health Service Ombudsman this week, showing some horrific neglect of elderly patients in the NHS, is so shocking.

The 10 cases highlighted in the report make for heartbreaking reading.

One woman arrived at a Tyneside care home from Birmingham’s Heartlands Hospital a stone lighter, highly distressed and soaked in urine after three months in the hospital.

Another woman spent 13 weeks in Southampton University Hospital without a bath and food kept out of reach.

A man in Bolton was so dehydrated he couldn’t speak and another elderly man’s life support machine was switched off, despite relatives pleading for it to be kept on until his sons were informed.

These are terrible cases of severe neglect and unbelievably they happened in our own National Health Service. It is appalling that this level of neglect should exist, and shows just how badly our elderly can be cared for.

The Ombudsman, who deals with serious complaints against the NHS, said the patients, aged over 65, suffered unnecessary pain and distress and neglect of even the most basic human needs.

And while the report is only based on 10 cases, the Ombudsman said they were far from isolated examples.

Of nearly 9,000 complaints made to the Ombudsman last year, 18% were about the care of older people. In total, it accepted 226 cases for investigation, twice as many as for all the other age groups combined.

Why are elderly people treated so badly? It’s like we’ve forgotten how to care for them.

In the past communities played a large part in caring for their elderly, and families were more likely to bring an elderly person into their home to live with them.

I am of the opinion that you should care for your parents as they have cared for you.

There seems to be a tendency to think our ties, even to family, should be there just to make us feel nice. There is a lot to be said for duty to a person’s family.

Our lives can be defined through care – being cared for as an infant and child, breaking away from that care as an adult, caring for your own children (and often your own parents caring again by supporting you through early parenthood) and then caring for your parents as they need you. But today’s society sees more people moving away from their home towns, and both members of a partnership working full-time to fund mortgages and lifestyles. Out of necessity then, the State plays a fundamental part in looking after the elderly.

It’s surely the most important reason why we pay taxes – so that the vulnerable in society are taken care of.

It is appalling that neglect of such vulnerable people should happen in this country.

Specialised hospital care is not an option for anyone but the richest and so most people are reliant on the NHS.

Standards in hospitals need to rise. It is outrageous that older people seem to be treated as inferior people.

How can these people, who have loved and cared for generations, be subjected to such awful treatment?

How can people dehumanise others to such outrageous levels?

It provokes a need for reassessment of how we look after our elderly.

Professional carers need to be reminded of their job title and their duties to people. We need “homely” retirement homes with genuinely caring staff; trustworthy home-helps who are concerned with the wellbeing of those they look after.

People who are able to care for elderly relatives or partners need proper support. Those that can live in their own homes need the help to be able to do so.

But most of all we need to be able to trust the National Health Service to look after those entrusted to its care. To make sure they are fed properly – and good food at that, not overprocessed microwaved rubbish which sees elderly patients leaving hospital malnourished. To make sure they have plenty of water. To make sure they are clean and have their basic health needs met.

We have a National Health Service which should be a source of pride, but it cannot be anything but a symbol of shame while elderly people are suffering such terrible neglect.

Perhaps the most shocking thing is that this report claims at least five of the 10 patients had not been given enough food or drink during their hospital stay.

That’s outrageous. How can it be called a National Health Service when it fails such basic needs?

Surely this must be a call to action for the Government and all political parties to stop this happening.

Five things to do with your family this week

1. BALLETBOYZ at Dance City, Newcastle. On Saturday at 2pm enjoy the arrival of one of the most exciting dance companies in the country, Balletboyz.

This unique dance group will be presenting an energetic and lively afternoon of dance, for all the family, 0191 261 0505, www.dancecity.co.uk

2. THOMAS and Friends – A Circus Comes to Town: Returning to the Metro Radio Arena on Saturday and Sunday, this all-new 90-minute musical adventure is packed with audience sing-a-longs, high-energy dancing and thrilling adventures.

Showings are at 11am and 2pm both days, with an additional showing at 5pm on Saturday, 0844 493 6666, www.metroradioarena.co.uk

3. FREE admission to the Alnwick Garden: Enjoy a free family day out in the beautiful grounds of the Alnwick Garden this weekend.

Until the end of March, you and your family can gain admission free of charge

The Gardens are open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 3pm, 01665 511350, www.alnwickgarden.com

4. GNOMEO and Juliet (U), Garden gnomes Gnomeo and Juliet have many obstacles to overcome when they are caught up in a feud between neighbours.

But with plastic pink flamingos and lawnmower races in the mix, can this young couple find lasting happiness?

Catch this new family comedy at the Empire Theatre in Consett from Saturday, running all through half term, 01207 218171, www.leisureworksonline.co.uk

5. FAMILY ART ventures at the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle. Drop in to the Laing Art Gallery all next week and create North Sea creatures inspired by the paintings in Northern Spirit.

These half-term family fun events are running from Monday to Friday from 1.20 to 3.30pm, 0191 261 0962, www.twmuseums.org.uk


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer