Browse > Home / health / Abuse of the elderly, so who got fired?

| Subcribe via RSS

Abuse of the elderly, so who got fired?

February 16th, 2011 Posted in health by

My gut reaction, other than revulsion, to yesterday’s story on abuse of the elderly within the NHS was uh oh, ‘research abuse’ and ‘policy by headline’ alert.

Digesting just the headlines,

“Appalling neglect” – Telegraph

“NHS to evict elderly” – Daily Mail 

“Ageist doctors” – Time

and the grim details in the case studies in the Abraham report, this summary from the Daily Mash nails it:

“NHS forcing old people into bare-knuckle boxing”

But how many case studies are covered by the Report?

The answer is ten.

This out of around 1,600 ‘properly made’ complaints to the ombudsman about the treatment of the elderly, itself 18% of the total number made each year.

This in turn is from around 250 million treatments a year, by a staff of just over 1.2m, much of whom work with the elderly given their more frequent and severe health problems.

Even accounting for under-reporting, and issues resolved quietly within hospitals, this Report is not evidence of a trend of abuse by the NHS. 

I cannot then agree with Care Services Minister, Paul Burstow,  when he says

“This report exposes the urgent need to update our NHS.”

The issues are principally about management and practice at an individual level within some hospitals. These complaints and how they are dealt with is an issue of professional not political leadership.

If national policy changes occur as a result of this report, it will be much in line with the emotional spasms of legimania and micro-management that guided the last Labour administration. 

The Coalition would be better advised not to comment as though this is something in their gift to change with initatives. They should instead focus on this follow up piece by the Telegraph, which answers the question in my headline.

“No NHS workers disciplined over neglect of the elderly”

“None of the trusts identified in the report said that any staff had been sacked, demoted or given warnings over their behaviour, although they insisted “lessons had been learned” and in some cases re-training given”

That is a policy issue. One sadly typical of the public sector. It is far too difficult to dismiss incompetent doctors, teachers, police officers and council workers. That in turn the result of decades of political interference in what are professional services, and concessions to unions for a quiet life. Patients don’t go on strike when you ignore them.

That culture and legal protections need to go, as do the staff who think leaving an old man soaking in his own urine is a bit of an oversight, and their managers who think the response to a such a complaint is a training course on ‘respect’.

Comments are closed.