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Sunday, July 05, 2009

NHS: Indefensible incidents of cruelty and neglect, and the harm done by target fixation and uncaring bureaucracy

The Telegraph reports on cruelty, neglect and indefensible incidents in the NHS.

I believe that the treatment patients receive should be the treatment the health workers would feel happy about receiving if they themselves, or their loved ones, were the patients. This, however, is far too often not the treatment vulnerable, ill, suffering patients receive. Too many health workers find it all too easy to disregard the agonising pain of a fellow human being in their care.

The Patients Association, a charity, "has drawn up a dossier detailing failings in health care which it says are suffered by thousands of people each year, with many left to die in pain or stripped of their basic dignity.

More than 5,000 people contacted the Patients Association's helplines last year because they or a relative had experienced poor medical care."

These would be only a small fraction of the many who suffer at the hands of the NHS. Patients are especially at risk if they have no relatives to visit them. Sometimes even with relatives visiting and trying to draw attention to faults and get them remedied, the poor treatment continues, but without relatives visiting, the patient who is being harmed is pretty powerless against the poor treatment. That was my own experience when I had the misfortune to spend a month as an inpatient with a badly broken right elbow 2 years ago in Sheffield's Northern General Hospital. That I was in excruciating pain from the pressure of the splint was effectually disregarded except to try to bully/pressurise me to take powerful painkillers I knew would not help me. The operation to repair the arm should have been done as soon as possible, as the splint was causing extensive nerve damage to my right hand and also massive swelling, but there were inexcusable delays and it was almost a fortnight before the operation was done. This has left me with permanent intense pain and nerve damage and it was months before I was able to use the right hand at all after leaving the hospital. And because of the ulna nerve damage caused by the long-sustained pressure of the splint on my forearm - not even noticed or looked for by the medics for almost a year despite my repeated reports of continuous intensely painful pins and needles all over my hand - that hand is wasting away and is expected to become a hook.

Certainly many of the staff were caring, kind and skilful, but that does not make up for the harm done by ill-informed, arrogant doctors, who know themselves to be, for all practical purposes, safe from censure or sanction, and so the bad practice continues.