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Elderly patients and the NHS

View profile for Judith Thomas-Whittingham
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The Care Quality Commission has recently considered whether nutrition and dignity standards were being adhered to at 100 hospitals. The CQC spent a day on two wards at each site and concerns were identified in 55 cases. Both the James Paget Hospital in Great Yarmouth and Sandwell General in West Bromwich were identified as two with concerns.

The scale of the problems identified in these hospitals were on a greater scale than many others, but the type of issues were typical of other hospitals.

Inspectors first visited the James Paget Hospital in April 2011 and judged it to be failing on both dignity and nutrition. “Moderate” breaches of patient dignity were identified, including two female patients who were left partially exposed whilst waiting for theatre staff to collect them. Another patient was visible to inspectors whilst she was sitting on a commode.

One patient, who suffered from an allergy, was unable to clarify with the staff whether she could eat the meals provided. Accordingly, the patient simply did not eat the meals in case they contained something which she could not have.

Despite these problems being flagged up to the hospital in April 2011, during its recent review this year, the CQC has discovered that the problems have not been rectified. Accordingly, the hospital was issued with a warning notice, meaning failure by James Paget to rectify the problems could mean that the hospital faces prosecution or closure.

The hospital's chief executive Wendy Slaney is reported to have said: "There is still work to do to get it right for all our patients and we are working on a programme of initiatives to ensure the required improvements are made."

Major concerns were raised regarding the approach to patient’s nutrition at Sandwell General Hospital. Inspectors advised that the systems in place to identify which patients required support to eat and drink, simply were not working. Concerns were also raised regarding the procedures in place to monitor dehydration among patients. Further, there was no provision of food between 5pm and 8am, except for biscuits and toast.

In light of the criticisms, Sandwell general closed the ward where most of the problems were identified.

Since the inspection, Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust chief executive John Adler has been reported to have said the CQC's report had reduced concerns over nutrition from major to minor.

If you believe that the medical treatment you have received is below a reasonable standard, then we have a dedicated team of clinical negligence solicitors who would be happy to advise you further. Call us for free initial advice on 01616 966 229.

By clinical negligence specialist, Adam Pennington