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We treat our hospital and care home patients with contempt and indifference, says the Health Secretary
Patients faced with 'coldness, resentment, indifference and contempt'
Jeremy Hunt said in worst institutions there was 'normalisation of cruelty'Hunt said recent extreme cases such as those at Winterbourne View and Stafford Hospital were not isolated incidents
07:49 GMT, 29 November 2012
Jeremy Hunt was fiercely critical of the service he controls in a speech, saying in some institutions there was a 'normalisation of cruelty'
Patients are faced with ‘coldness, resentment, indifference and contempt’ in some of the country’s hospitals and care homes, the Health Secretary admitted yesterday.
In a speech fiercely critical of the services he controls, Jeremy Hunt said that in the worst institutions there was a ‘normalisation of cruelty’ where appalling treatment was ignored by senior managers.
He spoke of a ‘crisis in standards of care’, adding that hospital and care home bosses who allowed poor care should be sacked.
‘Accountability must be stretched to the top,’ Mr Hunt said in a speech to health professionals in central London.
He said recent extreme cases such as those at Winterbourne View and Stafford Hospital were not isolated incidents, adding: ‘As well as the depressing regularity of these stories, the most worrying thing is the fact that in certain institutions this kind of care seems to have become normal.’
Mr Hunt, who made the impassioned speech almost three months into his tenure as Health Secretary, referred to a catalogue of shameful cases, in which low standards at British hospitals had led to appalling conditions and cruelty.
He said: ‘In places that should be devoted to patients, where compassion should be uppermost, we find its very opposite: a coldness, resentment, indifference, even contempt. Go deeper, and look at the worst cases – like Mid-Staffs and Winterbourne View – then there is something even darker.
‘A kind of normalisation of cruelty, where the unacceptable is legitimised and the callous becomes mundane.’
Mr Hunt said some managers ‘buried in spreadsheets’ became ‘blind to the realities’. He mentioned Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust, where families had to take home soiled bed sheets to wash because they had not been changed by staff.
He also cited Winterbourne View private hospital in Gloucestershire, where 11 care workers admitted 38 charges of neglect and ill-treatment of people with severe learning difficulties.
A judge condemned the ‘scandalous culture of cruelty’ at the care home after an expose by an undercover reporter.
Mr Hunt said some managers 'buried in spreadsheets' became 'blind to the realities'
Six members of staff were jailed last month for their part in the institutional abuse. Mr Hunt also referred to Alzheimer’s patient Ronald Bowman, 74, who should have been checked every 15 minutes but escaped from Panteg County Hospital in Pontypool, South Wales, in July.
It was an hour before nurses raised the alarm, by which time Mr Bowman had drowned in a river.
Mr Hunt said: ‘Just look at what has come to light in the last few years: patients left to lie in their own excrement in Stafford Hospital, with members of the public taking soiled sheets home to wash because they didn’t believe the hospital would do it.
Hunt cited Winterbourne View private hospital in Gloucestershire, where 11 care workers admitted 38 charges of neglect and ill-treatment of people with severe learning difficulties, pictured
Hunt said recent extreme cases such as those at Winterbourne View, pictured, and Stafford Hospital were not isolated incidents
‘The man with dementia who was supposed to be monitored every 15 minutes who managed to leave a Pontypool hospital and drown.
‘The residents kicked punched, humiliated, dragged by their hair and forced through cold showers at Winterbourne View. The elderly woman with dementia repeatedly punched and slapped at Ash Court Care Home.
‘The cancer patient at St George’s, Tooting, who lost a third of his body fluid, desperately ringing the police for help, because staff didn’t listen or check his medical records.’
Mr Hunt also spoke about his plans to examine the effectiveness of ‘Ofsted-style’ inspections for hospitals and care homes.