Give the elderly some dignity

Join our campaign to improve care for the elderly at the Luton & Dunstable Hospital...

Wednesday, 8th June 2011, 3:11 pm

ONE of the few comforts for someone who has lost a loved one is to know that they died in clean, safe surroundings, with the very best care.

But families of four elderly people who have died at the Luton & Dunstable Hospital say that, in their dying days, their beloved mother or father was deprived of the only comfort they had left – their dignity.

The Luton News is this week launching a campaign for improved care for the elderly at the L&D, for people who have for decades paid money into the NHS and deserve the best our hospitals have to offer.

While we recognise the excellent care given almost all of the time at this leading hospital, we feel the concerns of families must not be ignored.

Prompted by a damning report on patient safety at the L&D from the Care Quality Commission – which highlighted problems with training, safeguarding and discharge procedures – bereaved relatives contacted us to tell of their distress at what they have witnessed at the hospital.

Last week we featured Marsh Farm mum Karen Russell, whose mother Joan Thorpe, 87, died last month from pneumonia at the L&D. While on Ward 14, she contracted the hospital bug C difficile, and on one occasion was left to lie in her own diarrhoea for three hours.

This week we were contacted by Maria Argent, of Tithe Farm Road, Houghton Regis, whose father George died in April in Ward 14, aged 81.

Maria said: “He was taken in there on March 22 with what turned out to be gout, and he died on April 17 from C diff.

“It was horrendous. After he was diagnosed with C diff the healthcare assistant was still cleaning him up with no gloves or apron.

“They put him in a side room and until two hours before he died he still had another man’s name above his bed.

“He was left on the commode for an hour before being cleaned up. I just thought, ‘Give my dad some dignity for God’s sake.

“He was told that if he had diarrhoea not to keep buzzing for the nurses, that they would clean him up when they got round to him. It was unbelievable.”

Last year the L&D apologised for the care given to Clara Stokes, a former Land Girl who was left to lie in her own diarrhoea for hours on a stroke ward.

And the latest revelations have dismayed Liz Carr, of Leagrave High Street, whose mother Margaret Gallagher died in the L&D in April 2007.

C difficile was the cause of her death, something the family did not find out until they received a call from the coroner.

Mrs Carr said: “The hospital had kept telling us there was nothing wrong with her, and that she would be home in a few days. It was pure lies.

“My mother was frightened of the staff. It was their attitude – they just think they’re old people, they’ve had their innings.

“She was having to lie there in her own urine and poo, even though she was bleeding. If I was old I would be scared to go in there.”

Mrs Carr received assurances at the time that the situation on Ward 14 would improve.

She said: “They said they had learned their lesson. But Karen Russell’s story was an exact copy of what happened to us four years ago.”

At our request, the hospital has offered to show the Luton News around the wards for the elderly.

L&D chief exec, Pauline Philip, said, “Our priority is to ensure that each patient continues to receive top quality clinical care, safely and with dignity, kindness and respect. We are aware that some aspects of elderly care have fallen short of our own high standards and we immediately addressed the concerns raised by the Care Quality Commission.”

Asked if extra staff could be made available, the hospital said it would look at numbers as part of its nursing review.

A hospital spokesman said the growing elderly population presented a major challenge, with many people living longer but suffering chronic health conditions, adding that the hospital had seen a nine per cent rise in elderly admissions in the last three years.

The A&E department has been redesigned to better deal with the elderly, more partnership working is taking place with GPs to reduce the number of elderly patients requiring emergency care, and an ‘integrated discharge planning team’ was working with GPs, social services, families and care homes to ensure faster, safer discharging of patients.

To tackle the concerns raised in the CQC report, discharge and transfer plans had been reviewed and strengthened, training had been increased and safeguarding alert reporting procedures had been reviewed. The number of C difficile cases had dropped by 46 per cent the spokesman added.

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