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Class Action Suit Pondered Against British Hospital Accused of Gross Neglect attributed to “casual indifference of staff”

by | Dec 21, 2011

By Dave Andrusko

“The common themes we have encountered include patients being left dehydrated and starved – feeding tubes not given to patients who could not swallow normally, food being plunked out of reach of patients, and others left to eat with their fingers because they weren’t given cutlery.”
     — Emma Jones, a human rights lawyer for Leigh Day & Co, quoted in The Telegraph newspaper.

The narrative is so shocking it almost takes your breath away. A story over the weekend in the British publication, The Telegraph, talks of a class action suit against a hospital whose alleged actions—or, more specifically, failure to act properly—are so off-the-charts that lawyers say it constitute an abuse of the Human Rights Act.

Laura Donnelly, the newspaper’s Health Correspondent, writes that 23 families have already contacted  Leigh Day & Co about Alexandra Hospital for actions that the firm says represents “the tip of the iceberg.”  Leigh Day & Co previously won the largest-ever group claim against a single National Health Service (NHS) hospital–119 victims of the Stafford hospital scandal.

Donnelly cites

* A 35-year-old father-of-four who his family says wasted away because staff did not know how to fit a feeding tube

* A retired NHS worker who died after allegedly being left without food or crucial heart medication

* A man who fell into a coma after contracting E.coli, apparently from a filthy catheter

* The claims include allegations that vulnerable patients were left to starve when trays were left out of reach, while others left in soaking bedsheets.

Alexandra Hospital is run by the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals trust. According to Donnelly the trust had a 10% higher death rate than the national average for 2010/2011.

The allegations are part of a larger story—a growing concern about the standard of care and the failure to protect the vulnerable. The Health Service Ombudsman condemned the National Health Service (NHS) earlier this year for “its inhumane treatment of the elderly.” That includes failure to meet the most basic of needs—patients left unfed and unwashed or given the wrong drugs– because of the “casual indifference of staff.”

Possible legal action against the trust comes after The Care Quality Commission (CQC) “published the findings of spot check visits to 100 hospitals to inspect care of the elderly in October,” Donnelly writes. “Half were found to be failing basic standards.”

Alexandra was one of two hospitals where “major concerns” were found— failings “so fundamental that it was warned in May that it was breaking the law.”

There is already a public inquiry into conditions at Stafford Hospital  where hundreds died “in appalling conditions.” When the inquiry reports next year, Donnelly writes, it is expected “to criticise the wider failings of the NHS and of regulators’ failures to protect patients.”

That investigation found hospitals were failing to meet their most basic needs, with many left hungry, unwashed or given the wrong drugs because of the “casual indifference of staff.”

The entire shocking story can be read at www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/8963119/Shamed-hospital-accused-of-leaving-dying-patients-to-starve.html

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Categories: Health Care