Elderly care: Your stories


Too many hospitals in England are falling short in the most basic care they are giving elderly patients, inspectors say.

The Care Quality Commission carried out unannounced visits at 100 hospitals to assess dignity and nutrition standards. It identified concerns in 55 cases, describing the findings as "alarming".

Here BBC News website readers share their stories.

Daryl, in London

When I visited my grandmother, I was absolutely disgusted with the lack of care she got before she died. She couldn't open her mouth to speak and her eyes looked so sad.

I noticed that her lips were stuck closed and demanded a mouth swab to apply water from one the nurses. The nurse was so rude and shoved me a trolley with a bowl of water and swabs.

Her mouth was full of gunge. It was obvious that she had not eaten or drunk any fluids for god knows how long.

I'm still very angry at how the hospital left her like this on her last few days. The ward was so noisy with other elderly patients screaming for help.

She was a wonderful great grandmother who help and cheered up so many people. I dread being treated like this when my last few days are up in a hospital.

Adam, in Hertfordshire

These worrying findings back up my recent experience with the death last week of my 93-year-old father. He died after five weeks in hospital. I think the inspectors probably underestimate the size of the problem.

The catalogue of failings in basic care is too long to list. All of this happened in a well performing trust, which had signs up all over the place saying how well it was performing.

Apart from the failings of individuals involved in my father's care, there is a terrifying organisational disconnect whereby trusts can appear to be performing well according to national targets yet the reality of delivery of day-to-day care is appalling.

I think it is possible for hospitals to reach every government target and yet still be failing. Hospitals are dangerous places for the elderly.

I am a hospital consultant and was unable to protect my father from this dysfunctional system.

Claire, in Cambridgeshire

Until recently I worked as a health care assistant on a busy hospital ward where staff levels were usually one nurse and one health care assistant to around 15 patients.

During the daily running of the ward, this worked adequately as our patients were pre-booked for investigative procedures, allowing us to prepare for their needs before they arrived.

Problems arose during the winter when the beds were 'double booked' and given to A&E patients at weekends who could not be placed elsewhere.

This meant that planned admissions who came in on Monday and during the week were forced to wait for another slot and we were left to deal with all manner of specialist conditions we had little experience with.

We were given no extra support staff and suddenly one nurse and one health care assistant had to provide care for - sometimes - 15 people needing help with personal hygiene, eating, walking and often, dementia.

Staffing levels were, in a word, unsafe, and though we did the best that we possibly could in the circumstances, feeding everyone who needed help as soon as their meal arrived was simply impossible.

Whilst I will defend over-stretched nurses to the hilt regarding feeding - simply because of logistics - there is no excuse for a lapse in patient dignity.

Pulling curtains properly takes only a quick glance over the shoulder as you enter a bed space.

Lee, in Nottinghamshire

As a nurse of 12 years experience working within a range of health care settings, mainly primary care, I'm mortified to say that I do not find the report in anyway surprising.

The care received by many patients in the NHS or other care settings in this country currently is nothing short of scandalous. Wide ranging and urgent action is necessary to protect the vulnerable people of the UK.

From speaking to close colleagues and other nursing friends I think this is an endemic problem across the whole of the country.

I'd hate people to think it's just about indifferent and uncaring nurses, although in some instances that has become the case.

Unfortunately nurses are now working in a relentless environment where it is impossible for them to deal with their workloads. Most people who go into hospitals are less than impressed by some of the most basic elements of care.

I'm ashamed of the report and I find it impossible to believe that any nurse wouldn't care, but most would be like me and find it a bit difficult to do anything about it.

John, in Essex

I'm a nurse who has recently left the NHS. I left because I was no longer able to go to work to just look after people - the managers at the top had other ideas about what they thought I should be doing.

I think the vast majority of wards need to be better staffed, have better training and a better focus on care. There is too much form filling and not enough focus on care.

Essentially, there are three things the NHS can do to solve the vast majority of these things happening. More staff on the wards, better training, and a reduction in pointless box ticking paperwork.

In my experience, managers regularly deny that under-staffing makes any impact on care. Training is usually the first thing to be cut when the books need to be balanced.

There is a culture of obsession when it comes to measuring the inane: such as are the notes written in black ink; are the forms filled in correctly; is uniform policy being complied with?

Does any of that really matter when you've got ill people to look after?

The report isn't a surprise to me. The danger is pointing the finger, as it's as much a fault of the system as the individual.