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British Patients Face Humiliating Treatment

Posted by Tony Listi on December 5, 2007

So, who still wants universal health care? 


By Rebecca Smith, Medical Editor

Hospitals are still failing to treat people with dignity and respect as complaints reveal patients left unwashed, in soiled bedding and in humiliating open-backed gowns, the Healthcare Commission has said.

A third of complaints about the NHS relate to dignity, respect and nutrition in hospitals, the commission’s 2007 “state of healthcare” report found.

Mixed-sex wards are still a major problem, despite Labour’s manifesto pledges in 1997 and 2001 to abolish them.

advertisementThe report also said that one in five patients who wanted help with eating did not get it, and others complained that food or drink was placed out of reach.

Examples of complaints over dignity included a lack of regular baths or showers, gowns that failed to protect patients’ modesty and curtains being opened while a patient is receiving intimate care.

The 136-page report also called for improvements in care for children, action on hospital superbugs, better service planning and promotion of patient safety.

The report said one in 10 hospitals in England did not meet standards on patient privacy and confidentiality.

Half of patients in mental health wards and almost three in five with learning disabilities were treated in mixed-sex accommodation.

A third of patients admitted to hospital as an emergency were sleeping in mixed-sex areas and 30 per cent of in-patients had to share bathroom or shower areas with the opposite sex.

Patients were also frustrated that staff often did not have access to their notes, meaning they had to describe their condition repeatedly to different doctors.

A fifth of patients had been assaulted on mental health wards. There was variation in treatment for cancer patients and hidden waiting times in areas that are not subject to targets, such as two-year waits for psychological therapies and hearing aids.

Opposition MPs said the report provided a “damning indictment” of the NHS after more than a decade of Labour government, which has seen huge increases in investment.

Funding has increased from £55 billion in 2002-3 to almost £90 billion in 2007-8, and the workforce has increased by 29 per cent.

The commission warned private hospitals failing on standards that they could be banned from providing care in the future.

Eleven NHS hospitals were named as performing badly in patient satisfaction surveys for the second year.

The report, presented to Parliament, made recommendations to improve waiting times in areas not covered by targets, promote a culture of safety, raise standards of care for children and inform patients better.

Sir Ian Kennedy, the chairman of the commission, said: “Let’s be clear that health care has improved. But there is still some way to go before everyone gets world-class care.

“People are getting healthier, but there is serious disparity in both general health and in the care available to the haves and the have-nots.”

The Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: “As an NHS report card, the conclusion is could and must do a lot better. It is a damning indictment that 10 years into a Labour government, health inequalities are still shockingly wide.”

The Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, said: “We welcome this report and its recognition of continued ‘dramatic’ improvement. It shows that our health service is performing well for patients, who are waiting less time, getting faster diagnosis and better treatment.”

The hospitals rated worst by patients

Trust 2006 2007
The Hillingdon Hospital NHS Trust Below average Below average
The Lewisham Hospital NHS Trust Below average Below average
West Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust Below average Below average
Whipps Cross University Hospital NHS Trust Below average Below average
Queen Elizabeth Hospital Trust Below average Below average
Luton & Dunstable Hospital NHS Foundation Trust Below average Below average
Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust Below average Below average
Trafford Healthcare NHS Trust Poor Below average
Queen Mary‘s Sidcup NHS Trust Poor Below average
Ealing Hospital NHS Trust Poor Poor
North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust Poor Poor
Newham University Hospital NHS Trust Poor Poor

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