Today the Times is covering a report on the abuse dementia patients receive at the hands of the NHS. This is not an isolated incident at one particular hospital; it’s a litany of failures across the NHS. Quoting the Times article, “Charities said that the “shocking” findings marked a new low and should be unacceptable in a civilised society.” The statement is correct; civilised nations do not treat the most vulnerable members in this manner. We have to ask what kind of service ejects confused, frail and elderly patients from their care because it is more convenient for them. If you have ever been in an NHS hospital, it is hard to ignore the hundreds of posters telling patients that the abuse of staff won’t be tolerated. I have looked and have yet to find a recent incident of an NHS staff member being killed by a Patient, and yet today’s Times is replete with uncaring NHS staff sending patients in their care back home placing their lives in danger, and sometimes contributing to their death. It would appear that given the level of reporting on patient deaths caused by abuse and neglect in the NHS, the signs should replace “staff” with “patient”.
It is time the government, independent of both the NHS and Department of Health create a Patient Advocacy Board and give it teeth. In the first instance, no-one from the NHS should sit on it. It should be free to view care from the perspective of the patient without an NHS or DH filter. It should also have the ability to convene and direct investigations. Patient abuse should replace the emphasis on staff abuse, which is clearly designed to hide the real issue of NHS staff abusing those in their care. How many times have you read that someone charged with a crime uses their abuse as a defence? Staff found to have discharged those in their care into a place where they are either harmed or die, should be brought before the courts on abuse and manslaughter charges in the same way the “staff abuse” posters say that the NHS will prosecute the same behaviour to their members. The charade of the NHS as the victim must end. Staff must be held accountable, and patients should be the NHS’s focus, and not the staff’s paycheques and pensions.
We can blame the government for all of these problems, but that is to once again displace reality and leave patients in harms way. The NHS has been showered with riches and new buildings over the past decade and a half, and the only thing we, the taxpayer and user of the service seem to have received is a service that screams for yet while at the same time providing third world care. The NHS is acting like the spoiled over pampered and often excused failure it is. Protecting an ideal at the expenditure of lives is not worthy of us as a Nation. We are much better than that. We prove it every day with our generosity to others, but when it comes to the NHS, we have had the wool pulled over our eyes and have been happy to leave it there.
We must start to see the NHS as it exists today as a system described by charities who protect the elderly and frail as not worthy of a civilised society. Instead of protecting those who are supposed to serve us, we should be looking after those the NHS have abandoned. To do anything less is being an accomplice to abuse and murder. As a nation that is not who we are.
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