Hospital that left patient to starve to death and another unwashed for 11 weeks forced to pay 400,000 in compensation
Human rights lawyers described mistreatment as 'appalling' failures of careWorcestershire Acute NHS Hospital Trust bosses will apologise to families
Successful legal action by 38 families has led to total payouts of 410,000Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is 'disgusted and appalled' by the accountsPatients left thirsty while another had ribs broken as staff tried to lift himTrust accepts care was below standard but has not admitted legal liability
01:56 GMT, 24 December 2012
A hospital trust has paid out more than 400,000 in compensation and issued dozens of apologies over an ‘appalling’ catalogue of neglect.
In one of the worst ever cases of multiple NHS failings, patients were left begging for water or left hungry after trays of food were dumped too far from their reach – and one man died of starvation.
Another elderly patient had his ribs ‘broken open’ when staff dragged him off a bed with a hoist while others were left lying in their own mess for hours at a time.
Neglect: Sonya Grande said husband Chris wasted away because staff did not know how to fit a feeding tube
One woman of 86, a former NHS nurse, was left unwashed and lying in her own faeces for 11 weeks because nurses were ‘too busy’ to help her into a bath. The woman, Patricia Bridle, later died.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday said he was ‘disgusted and appalled’ by the scandal centred on Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, Worcestershire.
The apologies follow Prince Charles’s call last week for NHS staff to adopt a more caring attitude. It also comes in the wake of the Daily Mail’s long-running Dignity for the Elderly campaign.
Lawyers for 38 patients or their families began a class action against Worcestershire Acute NHS Hospitals Trust 18 months ago, following the release of a damning report by the Care Quality Commission into the standard of its care for the elderly.
The watchdog warned patients were having to be prescribed water so they had enough to drink.
In one of the worst cases, an 84-year-old starved to death in 2009 after being admitted following a fall. The man, who has not been identified at the request of his relatives, could only manage certain foods, but he was not fed properly and died two months later.
On his death certificate, inanition, a clinical term for starvation, was recorded as the cause of death.
Emma Jones from Leigh Day & Co, which represented the victims, said it was the first time in her ten years as a human rights lawyer that she had come across starvation being given as the primary cause of death.
She added: ‘The failings we uncovered were appalling. Vulnerable and elderly patients were left starving and thirsty, with drinks left out of reach, buzzers ignored and people not being taken to the toilet and instead left to sit in their own faeces by the very people meant to be caring for them.
‘The families wanted an apology above all else and that is what they will now receive, in writing.’
The incidents took place between 2002 and 2011, with 35 cases brought against the Alexandra Hospital and three against the Worcestershire Royal, in Worcester.
Let down: Peter Bridle said his mother
Patricia, pictured as a former NHS, was 'embarrassed and humiliated'
The Trust, which runs both, has agreed to pay a total of 410,000 in compensation over the 38 cases – in five cases to patients who survived, the rest to those whose relatives died. The largest settlement is 22,500. Most are around 10,000.
The lawsuit began last summer after CQC spot checks found ‘major concerns’ at the Redditch hospital and also Sandwell General in West Bromwich.
Relatives contacted Leigh Day, who were involved in legal action on behalf of families caught up in the scandal at Stafford Hospital where it was estimated that up to 1,200 patients died unnecessarily between 2005 and 2008.
Apology: Alexandra Hospital's head of nursing read the statement outside the hospital today
Appalled: Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said he is 'disgusted' by the patients' and families' accounts
Mr Hunt said the Worcestershire class action highlighted the ‘sort of “care” that should simply not happen in the NHS’.
month, he said there was a ‘kind of normalisation of cruelty’ in the
worst hospitals, with patients too often subjected to resentment,
indifference and even contempt.
In 2010-11 death rates at the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust were 10 per cent higher than the national average.
Yesterday the trust said some of the ‘very serious allegations’ were ‘not borne out by the medical notes’, but admitted ‘certain aspects of care’ fell below standards patients were entitled to expect.
Its mortality rates are now below the national average, it added.
Doctors spent two-and-a-half weeks before they diagnosed pensioner's broken hip
A 94-year-old woman was left permanently unable to walk after doctors failed to notice for two-and-a-half weeks that she had broken her hip.
Lois Smith's daughter Lois Sumner said her mother, who suffers from dementia, was in agonising pain when she was admitted to Alexandra Hospital last May after a fall.
Doctors spotted Mrs Smith had a broken wrist but her hips and legs were not checked, according to her daughter, who witnessed physiotherapists trying to get her mother out of bed to do exercise.
Ignored: Doctors failed to notice Lois Smith had broken her hip for two-and-a-half weeks
She said: 'Every time I came to visit her she would just weep and say that no one ever responded to the bell when she rang it for help. She would be left for hours, thirsty, hungry or desperate for the toilet.'
The family were among those taking legal action against the trust, with Mrs Smith leaving hospital with infections in both legs, which had been dressed in bandages covered in blood.
Mrs Sumner lived next door to her mother but Mrs Smith has since moved to a care home because of her deteriorating mobility.
Deteriorating: Mrs Smith's legs after she was discharged from Alexandra Hospital