I have complained a lot about over-sensational newspaper headlines which only succeed in worrying older people, but today I would have been pleased to see this as a front page headline – “Widespread neglect of elderly patients revealed”. Instead it made Page 22 of The Independent (but only a small paragraph), page 20 of the Daily Mail and page 18 of The Guardian. It was missed altogether by other press.
I’m talking about a comment from a Report published on the very day that we commemorate the high sacrifice made by our parents and grandparents, which should bring shame on the rest of us for the complacency and neglect we give to the care of generations who were called upon to give up so many lives.
The Report entitled “An Age Old Problem” is published by a quietly under-the-carpet and awkwardly named organisation called the “National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death”. Maybe it’s a deliberately obscure and marginalised organisation because its conclusions in this report are such a devastating indictment of the medical profession and the NHS as a whole in terms of its treatment of older people. The study looked at elderly patients who died in hospital within 30 days of undergoing surgery.
Here are some of its shocking findings:-
- Two thirds of patients do not receive good care
- Most patients were poorly nourished and had other serious illnesses
- Yet two thirds of cases were not seen by a Specialist in Elderly Care
- A fifth of patients had significant delays between admission and surgery
- A quarter of hospitals had no Acute Pain service
Commenting on the Report:-
Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of the Patients’ Association said “It’s unbelievable that any Acute Hospital can think it’s safe to admit elderly patients without the correct Specialist team.” (I agree – so what’s the Patients’ Association going to do about it?)
Jo Webber, Deputy Policy Director of the NHS Confederation said “There is absolutely no excuse for poor care, regardless of the age of the person involved.” (This is a complacent understatement if ever there was one.)
Michelle Mitchell of AGE UK said “This Report is a stark reminder that too often older people receive second or even third rate care in hospital, condemning many of them to an early death.” (Time to Rage against the Dying of the Light don’t you think Michelle?)
Paul Burstow, Care Services Minister said the Study “paints a disturbing and unacceptable picture of the Quality of Care experienced by older people.” (Well Minister, like it or not, your Government is now responsible for killing people rather than curing them. Time for Action don’t you agree?)
The findings of this Report will not be news to many older people who have experienced surgical NHS care, where stories about mistakes and complications are commonplace. However, tragically, this important Study deserves far greater media coverage than it has been given and a sustained Campaign for change NOW is called for.
Sadly and with great irony the significance of today’s date has been missed by Journalists and Editors alike.
TODAY OF ALL DAYS!