This had me near tears today (and it’s nothing to do with old age NHS vs social care scandals) (and it’s not exactly the Telegraph that it appears in):
Some people, on hearing that old people in hospital were being left lying in their own faeces, or with open wounds that no one had put a bandage on, or with a mouth that was red and raw and parched, because they couldn’t reach out for the beaker of water that was on their bedside cabinet, or that they were getting very thin, because they couldn’t get anywhere near the tray of food at the end of their bed, or that they were being taken out of hospital in other people’s clothes, which were soaked in urine and held together with paper clips, might be a bit surprised.
John Humphrys certainly sounded surprised. When he talked about a new report, about the care of old people in hospital, on the Today programme yesterday, he seemed to think that it was strange that people who couldn’t do anything for themselves, and who had probably paid a lifetime of national insurance contributions to get the care they were now getting, and who were very uncomfortable, and very ill, and often very hungry, and often very thirsty, and often very dirty, weren’t being made to feel better by the people who were looking after them. He seemed to think that this was unusual. He even seemed to think it might be ageist.
I think that’s unfair. I think it’s perfectly normal to be lying in a hospital bed, not able to do anything very much, and in a lot of pain, and feeling very sick, and not knowing if you will ever feel better again, and to have someone who is meant to be looking after you who doesn’t seem to want to look after you. I think it’s perfectly normal to press your buzzer, which is the one thing you can reach, because your morphine pump doesn’t seem to be working, or your oxygen pump is making a funny noise, and have no one answer it. But maybe John Humphrys, who is very busy interviewing politicians, hasn’t had time to visit a hospital.
Luckily, I have. I have, in fact, found the time to have six operations in the past eight years. Before the first one, which now seems like a long time ago, I was a bit naïve. I, too, thought that if, for example, you’d just had bits of you cut out, and were finding it quite hard to move, not just because of the pain, but also because of the drains and drips and tubes and catheters that were coming out of your arms, and chest, and other parts of you that it isn’t nice to mention in a column, and were also quite upset, because you’d just been diagnosed with cancer and were still in your thirties, and you didn’t know if the surgeons had caught it all, or how bad it was, that the people who were meant to be looking after you would be nice. But I soon learnt that they weren’t.
Read the whole thing. And meanwhile, while we’re all on the subject of the power of social media, and speaking of those elderly at the heart of the current (ahem) nationalized healthcare scandal:
[W]e’re not talking about serving lunch a bit late. These NHS workers aren’t bothering to give a dying woman a glass of water. In another case, an old lady wasn’t offered a bath or shower – for 13 weeks. The shock revelation, as my colleague Ben Brogan blogged, is that “there are people working in the NHS who fail the human being test.” That’s the incomprehensible part.
So what have the “We love the NHS” crew got to say in its defence? Nothing, apparently. The embarrassed silence continues.
Instant Update: I meant to say also, that last night I watched another episode of A Touch of Frost, and this one made quite a point of the nurse in the story (being interviewed about the background of a stiff, obv) being, as a matter of course, an unfeeling bureaucratic bitch. Things must have been so much simpler in 1995.