Patients go hungry in half of hospitals: Elderly routinely left for hours without a drink
Nearly half of hospitals visited by undercover inspectors are failing to meet basic nutrition standards, a damning report has warned.
Elderly patients are routinely left without anything to drink for hours, with some so dehydrated they are being put on drips.
Other patients found themselves regularly being fed by their relatives because nursing staff were too busy to help.
Mealtime: But in many hospitals patients must wait hours without food or drink (picture posed by models)
The appalling failings were uncovered by the Care Quality Commission during inspections of NHS wards.
Other concerns highlighted included hospitals slipping Do Not Resuscitate orders inside patients’ notes without telling them or their families.
The Commission found 49 out of 100 hospitals were not meeting basic nutrition standards. This included 17 with ‘moderate’ or ‘major’ concerns.
Dehydration contributes to the deaths of more than 800 patients a year and another 300 die malnourished, according to official figures.
On one ward at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals inspectors found frail patients had not been given a drink for more than ten hours.
Doctors were so concerned some patients were becoming dangerously dehydrated that they put them on drips.
Next week the CQC will publish a full report into its findings, which is expected to urge hospitals to do more to ensure the elderly do not become malnourished or neglected.
There is widespread concern amongst ministers and patient groups that some nursing staff are allowing vulnerable patients to be neglected.
At Barnsley Hospital inspectors found staff had not been given any training in how to spot which patients might need help eating or drinking – they were just ‘learning on the job’.
And at James Paget University Hospital in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, inspectors came across a nurse telling off a frail patient merely for ringing a call bell.
Treatment: But half of hospitals are not meeting basic nutrition standards (picture posed by models)
In some hospitals, including the Conquest Hospital in St Leonards, East Sussex, it found staff put Do Not Resuscitate orders inside patients’ notes without consent from them or their families.
Inspectors also found nursing staff speaking patronisingly to frail patients with dementia.
The CQC spot-checks were partly triggered by a Mail campaign with the Patients Association last year exposing the shocking neglect of the elderly on NHS wards.
The watchdog found major concerns with the nutritional standards at Worcester Hospitals and at Sandwell General Hospital in Birmingham.
Another 15 were deemed to have ‘moderate’ concerns, with ‘minor’ concerns at 32 more.
The worst hospitals could be fined if they fail to improve before the watchdog carries out another inspection.
Meanwhile, the Patients Association is so concerned over the number of calls to its helpline regarding poor treatment that it has convened an emergency meeting with the Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of Nursing, and Nursing and Midwifery Council next month.
Chief executive Katherine Murphy said: ‘Water and food are not treatments – they are a basic human right.
‘Helping patients with food and water is not a “try to do”, it is a fundamental part of essential care.’
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: 'Everyone admitted to hospital deserves to be treated as an individual, with compassion and dignity. We must never lose sight of the fact that the most important people in the NHS are its patients.
'That's why I asked the CQC to undertake unannounced inspections into the treatment of older patients with practising nurses and people who use services - so that poor care can be identified and stamped out.
'They saw some exemplary care, but some hospitals were not even getting the basics right. That is simply unacceptable.
'In the future, I want local HealthWatch organisations to be able to carry out unannounced independent inspections and hold local services to account by drawing on experience from patients and their families.'
Oct. 7, 2011