Shocking catalogue of neglect at hospital where patient STARVED to death and pensioner was left unwashed for 11 weeksHuman 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
17:19 GMT, 23 December 2012
An NHS hospital trust will apologise to families of patients who suffered a shocking catalogue of neglect – including a pensioner who starved to death and another who was left unwashed for 11 weeks.
Human rights lawyers have described the mistreatment as 'appalling' failures of care, following successful legal action which included a total payout of 410,000.
In one of the worst cases, an 84-year-old man starved to death at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, Worcestershire, in June 2009.
Neglect: Sonya Grande said husband Chris wasted away because staff did not know how to fit a feeding tube
A clinical term for starvation,
inanition, was the official cause on his death certificate.
The man, from Redditch, who relatives did not want to be identified, was
admitted after a fall and given a special diet as he could only manage
certain foods but he was not fed properly and two months later died.
Other patients treated by the Worcestershire Acute NHS Hospital Trust were left thirsty with drinks left out of reach while some were left to sit in their own excrement.
An elderly woman went unwashed for 11 weeks and later died, while nurses would take uneaten food away from a man who was unable to feed himself, according to his daughter.
There were further claims from the families of a man whose ribs were broken while hospital staff attempted to lift him, and a great-grandmother whose hip fracture went undetected by doctors.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was 'disgusted and appalled' to read the families' and patients' accounts, saying the Department for Health would be 'keeping a careful eye' on the situation.
It follows Prince Charles' calls for the Health Service to listen to its patients and be more caring.
Lawyers for the families started a class action against the trust 15 months ago, after failings in basic day-to-day care were highlighted in a report by health watchdog the Care and Quality Commission (CQC).
Humiliated: Patricia Bridle was left lying in her own excrement for 11 weeks despite her son pleading with staff
Regulators later warned that many patients were left at risk of dehydration in a report condemning the quality of care of the elderly across the NHS after spot checks at 100 hospitals. It highlighted ‘major concerns’ at Alexandra Hospital
Statistics also showed death rates at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust were 10 per cent higher than the national average in 2010-11, with more than 230 deaths than expected. The figure has since dropped to six per cent.
Health bosses at the trust agreed in November to write to each of the 38 families apologising for lapses in care, but have not admitted legal liability.
Many of the families will also receive a financial payment of on average about 10,000 – the highest being 22,500.
Emma Jones, a human rights lawyer with Leigh Day & Co which brought the legal action, said: '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.
'There have been financial settlements, but what the families have always wanted all along is an apology, some have been waiting years.
'The trust has agreed to send out those letters of apology and they are expected to be sent out in January.'
In one of the cases, Sonya Grande said her husband Chris, 35, a father-of-four who suffered from muscular atrophy, starved to death because staff did not know how to fit a feeding tube.
Let down: Peter Bridle said his mother
Patricia, pictured as a former NHS, was 'embarrassed and humiliated'
The widow said nurses pumped him with fluids but did not heed warnings that Mr Grande's condition meant he would quickly weaken
She told The Telegraph: 'They starved my husband to death. Chris spent his last
few days in agony and terrified of the people who were supposed to be
Another patient, former NHS nurse Patricia Bridle was left in her own excrement for 11 weeks but staff at the Alexandra said they were 'too busy' when her son Peter pleaded with them to give her a bath.
He said: 'My mother stopped wanting us to come to the hospital, not because she didn’t want to see us but because she was embarrassed, humiliated that she was lying in her own filth.
Mr Bridle also said seizure medication his mother – who died from a seizure after being transferred from the Alexandra – was put on was so strong it 'rendered her incapable of thought'.
Laurence Hodges, 73, had his ribs broken when staff used a hoist to pull him out of bed and his wife Patricia said that despite his pain he was given only aspirin. She added he was later 'doped up' on morphene and Mrs Hodges claimed he was left hungry and dehydrated.
Success: Human rights lawyer Emma Jones has led the legal action against the NHS trust
Another relative, Lois Sumner claimed her mother Lois Smith was unable to walk after doctors failed to spot she had broken her hip in a fall, and that she was often left thirsty, hungry or desperate for the toilet.
Also due to receive an apology from the trust are the family of Colin White. Mr White, 73, had set-up and run a successful outside catering business before his retirement.
He was admitted to the Alexandra Hospital with liver problems in July 2009, and died at the hospital three months later.
His daughter Kim, who lives in Gloucester, described how there was 'no respect or dignity' for her father during his stay at the hospital, and how they had to fight 'tooth and nail' to be heard by clinicians.
During the final month of Mr White's life, the family including her mother – a former matron at Walsall's Manor Hospital – opted to stay at Mr White's bedside on the ward because of concerns over the day-to-day care he was receiving.
His family claim their father was not fed properly, doctors and nurses were uncommunicative, and on one occasion he was left lying in soiled bedding.
'All we ever wanted was an apology – a written apology to say 'yes, we failed your father and we are sorry',' said Miss White.
'All we wanted was to be acknowledged, and the acknowledgement that my father was treated appallingly.
'We also didn't want anyone else to go through the hell that my father went through.'
Miss White also said the trust told her they had identified 'a plan of improvements' to boost levels of care on her father's ward, three months before the CQC's inspectors visited the hospital in March 2011.
Ms Jones said the trust 'had engaged' with lawyers throughout the process, and the settlements reflected a willingness to 'draw a line' under the matter.
In a statement, the trust accepted 'care fell below the requisite standard' but added 'significant' improvements had since been made to levels of patient care.
Apology: Alexandra Hospital's head of nursing read the statement outside the hospital today
The incidents all took place between 2002 and 2011, with 35 cases brought against the Alexandra Hospital and three against the Worcestershire Royal Hospital, Worcester.
In March 2011, inspectors from the CQC arrived unannounced at the Alexandra Hospital, and concluded that the trust was breaking the law in failing to meet 'essential standards', and needed to improve care.
Ms Jones said: 'Clients came forward following a report by the watchdog the Care and Quality Commission which raised all sorts of issues about dignity, nutrition and respect for patients.
'I am hopeful that the trust have learned their lessons.
'When we met with them (the trust) in November they assured us changes had been made and I am hopeful they will have been made.'
Mr Hunt said 'I am disgusted and appalled to read these accounts of what patients and their relatives went through.
'These are examples of the sort of 'care' that should simply not happen in the NHS and there is no excuse for them.
'We will be keeping a careful eye on this situation, and will take further action if necessary.
'I know that most NHS staff including many at the Alexandra Hospital will be shocked to hear these stories.
'I want to support them in making sure that these awful experiences are not repeated.
'In future, we will be implementing a systematic way of measuring patients' experiences, both good and bad, so that the public can see how individual hospitals are doing at providing the highest possible standards of care.'
Appalled: Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said he is 'disgusted' by the patients' and families' accounts
Worcestershire Acute Hospital Trust said in a statement: 'While the trust has accepted that certain aspects of the care afforded to some patients fell below the standard that they were entitled to expect, all of the cases cited are several years old, in many incidences, more than a decade old.
'This trust now has the sixth best standard hospital mortality index (SHMI) in the Midlands and East Strategic Health area based on 2012/13 figures which put the figure at 97 – which is below the national average.
'A number of very serious allegations made by the families of deceased patients are not borne out by the medical records.
'Nevertheless, the trust accepts that, the care afforded to some patients, some years ago – between 2002 and 2009 – fell below the requisite standard and has apologised for the shortcomings.
'Following a CQC inspection in early 2011, and as a consequence of rigorous clinical governance within the trust, significant changes have been made to ensure patient care is excellent which is resulting in the trust currently producing a SHMI below the national average.
'Moreover, the CQC inspection in September 2011 confirmed the trust met every CQC standard and the focus now is to ensure that those high standards are maintained and built upon.
'The trust is committed to delivering the very best care to its patients and will continue to strive for excellence.'
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