Elderly Patients Dying Of Thirst In British Hospitals

The Care Quality Commission has found widespread neglect of elderly patients in the British National Health Service.

This is the kind of report that makes me glad I don’t live in a country where the government has complete control over the provision of health care (yet):

Doctors are prescribing drinking water for neglected elderly patients to stop them dying of thirst in hospital.

The measure – to remind nurses of the most basic necessity – is revealed in a damning report on pensioner care in NHS wards.

Some trusts are neglecting the elderly on such a fundamental level their wards could face closure orders

The snapshot study, triggered by a Mail campaign, found staff routinely ignored patients’ calls for help and forgot to check that they had had enough to eat and drink.

Dehydration contributes to the death of more than 800 hospital patients every year

Another 300 die malnourished. The latest report – by the Care Quality Commission – found patients frequently complained they were spoken to in a ‘condescending and dismissive’ manner.

And, yes, abuses, neglect, and mistakes happen here too. But anyone who thinks that government-run health care would somehow be demonstrably better than what we have now must necessarily ignore stuff like this in order to keep their belief system intact  I would imagine.

UPDATE (James Joyner): Steve Hynd raised, via Twitter, some concerns about the credibility of the report since the Daily Mail is a tabloid. But the Quality Care Commission is an independent regulatory agency which “regulate[s] care provided by the NHS, local authorities, private companies and voluntary organisations. We aim to make sure better care is provided for everyone – in hospitals, care homes and people’s own homes. We also seek to protect the interests of people whose rights are restricted under the Mental Health Act.” The report in question was commissioned by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

I was unable to locate the referenced report on their website.

FILED UNDER: Health, Health Care, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Hell, to a left winger the elderly dying of thirst in government-run hospitals merely is an effective cost control device necessary to a single-payor healthcare system.

    Don’t forget, Chief, that leftism actually is a severe mental disorder.

  2. legion says:

    Doug,
    Lazy people will neglect their duties, whether they’re paid by a government agency or a private company. The solution is to hire responsible people and actually supervise them. This is not a private v. public issue.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    I think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick here, Doug. Neglect is a crime in the UK just as it is in the US. This sounds to me like an issue of bureaucracy and I’m skeptical that our hospitals and nursing homes are less bureaucratic than those run by BNH.

  4. george says:

    And yet the British live on avergae longer than Americans … can’t be too many of them dying of thirst.

  5. I concur with Dave. I suspect that one could easily find horror stories of this kind in nursing homes across the world regardless of how they are funded.

    And, further, just for the sake of accuracy: thew notion of moving towards a British-style National Health Service (i.e., where the government directly provides health care) is not on the table in the US debate (certainly not anything that would be considered mainstream debate).

    I find that a lot of folks don’t understand the difference between the different types of universal care in various countries. The BHS model is on one of the extremes.

  6. mantis says:

    I’d like to see the actual report, and not a tabloid version of its findings.

    Also, dying of dehydration does not necessarily mean that the death was caused by neglect. One could be admitted already suffering from dehydration (typically as a symptom of another condition), and die despite the best efforts of medical personnel.

    But anyone who thinks that government-run health care would somehow be demonstrably better than what we have now must necessarily ignore stuff like this in order to keep their belief system intact I would imagine.

    This is just absurd. There are many so-called “government run health care” systems where no such problems exist. To imply that one must accept this kind of thing from government-run care as a given is to construct yet another libertarian-minded strawman (but hey, what else do you have but strawmen?).

  7. ratufa says:

    And, yes, abuses, neglect, and mistakes happen here too. But anyone who thinks that government-run health care would somehow be demonstrably better than what we have now must necessarily ignore stuff like this in order to keep their belief system intact I would imagine.

    As Steven Taylor pointed out, a British-style healthcare system is not something that is being seriously considered in the US.

    Even so, the above quote of Doug’s is silly. A person could argue for (or against ) government run health care because they think the benefits outweigh the disadvantages, not because they necessarily are failing to take the disadvantages (or advantages) into account.

    Also, as others have mentioned, it’s not hard to find reports of patient abuse in private nursing homes or hospitals. So, one-sided reports of this nature really don’t prove much either way. For example, I suspect that all the insurance company horror stories told by supporters of the Affordable Care Act didn’t convince you to support it, even if you didn’t “necessarily” ignore them.

  8. Dan says:

    Wow that’s some quality reporting there, citing the Daily Mail without even seeing the study. If you’re interested in immigration as well you might want to look into the dangers posed by dirty Poles to British swans, as according to the Mail those nasty E. Europeans are killing them en masse and destroying our heritage.

    Taking things out of context is what the Mail does. It’s anger porn, getting the working white male’s blood boiling at breakfast about incompetent government and dangerous minorities. Feels quite good, but it’s not generally an acceptable citation, even in primary school.

  9. Drew says:

    “Lazy people will neglect their duties, whether they’re paid by a government agency or a private company. The solution is to hire responsible people and actually supervise them. This is not a private v. public issue.”

    Fascinating. Its an article of faith among government apoligists that the Pentagon is a bastion of politics, waste, power building etc and should have it budget reduced by a third to a half. Apparently, there is a door on the other side of the building where they take applications for the SS administration, EPA, medicare, welfare office etc that all the smart, industrious, apolitical and efficient people submit their resumes……….

  10. JKB says:

    Why the attack on the tabloids? They are routinely proven to have been correct these days. The tabloids had Arnold’s baby story years ago, now we know it was true. It’s the other so-called “papers of record” who have gone yellow, printing lies, hiding stories and propagandizing for their favorites.

  11. sam says:

    Lawsuits allege nursing home neglect

    In the months since a Humboldt County jury leveled a $671 million verdict against a nursing home chain, five similar lawsuits have been filed throughout California. Each case alleges that nursing homes are providing too few staff to meet resident needs.

    Last July, the Humboldt County jury found Skilled Healthcare had failed to meet the state staffing standard and imposed the maximum fine of $500 per patient for each day that the chain was in violation. Attorneys for both sides have since agreed that the chain should pay $50 million to settle the claims and avert bankruptcy. The company admitted no wrongdoing.

    Attorneys for the plaintiffs hailed the class-action case as one of the largest jury verdicts in nursing home litigation history.

    Eureka Times Standard reporter Matt Drange wrote a detailed three-part series about the case, which you can read here. I also wrote about some of the “smoking gun” internal e-mails that jurors saw during the trial.

    Several of the attorneys who prevailed in Humboldt County are bringing the new wave of complaints, which closely resemble the Skilled Healthcare lawsuit.

    “We do think it’s made a big wake-up call to the (nursing home) industry,” said Michael Crowley, a Eureka attorney who worked on the Skilled Healthcare case. “If this is your model, to jack up profit by understaffing, that’s just not going to be tolerated.”

    Kathryn Stebner, a San Francisco attorney who is working on the recently filed staffing cases, said attorneys relied on state data to identify nursing home chains and facilities that provided inadequate numbers of staff.

    Here are some basics from the cases, all of which allege understaffing:

    Attorneys allege that plaintiff Phyllis Wehlage was left unattended when she was a resident at Evergreen Lakeport Healthcare in Lake County in 2008. As a result, her call light was unheeded and she had inadequate help with getting to the bathroom, “resulting in sitting in a urine-soaked bed for hours,” the complaint says. (The case is Phyllis Wehlage v. Evergreen California Healthcare, filed Nov. 15 in Sonoma County)

    George E. Valentine II, now 61, was a resident of Gateway Care and Rehabilitation in Hayward after suffering a brain injury after surgery. Attorneys allege that the facility had insufficient staffing. As a result, Valentine was not moved often enough to avoid developing bedsores. (The case is Valentine v. Thekkek Health Services, filed Nov. 12 in Alameda County.)

    Two plaintiffs who lived in Golden LivingCenter facilities in Bakersfield and Petaluma allege that their nursing homes were understaffed, resulting in inadequate assistance with eating and rough handling by staff. (The case is Maria Hernandez v. Beverly Healthcare California, filed Nov. 10 in San Francisco.)

    Hazel Walsh, a resident at Golden Gate Healthcare Center in San Francisco, alleges that the facility’s understaffing resulted in various forms of neglect. (The case is Hazel Walsh vs. Kindred Healthcare, filed Nov. 23, 2010 in San Francisco.)

  12. MM says:

    Why the attack on the tabloids? They are routinely proven to have been correct these days. The tabloids had Arnold’s baby story years ago, now we know it was true. It’s the other so-called “papers of record” who have gone yellow, printing lies, hiding stories and propagandizing for their favorites

    The tabloids had Arnold’s baby story and chose to bury it because they had worked out a deal. That’s not brave OR responsible but tittilating journalism. And the Daily Mail is edited by design solely to outrage conservatives. it’s like Pam Geller in dead tree form.

  13. Steve Hynd says:

    Re: James’ update. the reason he can’t find the report is because it is actually 12 reports. The daily mail report is entirely taken from the press release though – only thy didn’t mention that exactly one patient needed to have water prescribed to ensure medical staff gave him a drink.

    In all cases, the reports have the force of law – i.e. the hospitals concerned have already had to respond with a plan to remedy any and all faults or face legal consequences.

    And the bit about 800 people dying of thirst every year? that traces back to a Daily Telegraph article a while back which involved with-holding fluids and prescribing morphine as a non-permitted method of euthenasia in some hospitals, an allegation levelled by a dozen or so antiNHS experts in a letter but never substantiated by any formal investigation.

    This is British tabloid journalism.

    Regards, Steve

  14. matt says:

    My mom worked for years in nursing homes and she can spend all evening telling you worse stories then this about what happens here in the good ol USA. To this very day nursing homes are closed or fined (usually fined) for allowing patients to die via horrible means.

  15. anjin-san says:

    I suspect that one could easily find horror stories of this kind in nursing homes across the world regardless of how they are funded.

    Quite true. And you have to ask yourself how many elderly are dying here at home because they get no care at all.

  16. Stan says:

    When Doug Mataconis provides one example of a government or political party in any OECD country other than ours that proposes scrapping that country’s health system in favor of ours, I’ll take him seriously.

  17. Montanareddog says:

    It would appear that the numbers are a little suspect – anyone familiar with the Daily Mail will not find this surprising as it is the most reactionary of the English national newspapers.

    And even if true, there is no evidence of causation linked to socialised medecine.

    If someone could provide credible stats comparing deaths from dehydration in UK and US hospitals, and deaths caused by the rationing of care by government fiat in the UK system compared to the rationing of care due to pre-existing conditions, unemployment and all the other reasons for individuals to be involuntarily uninsured in the US, we may have the starting point for some non-ideological comparisons.

    But if you wish to use such anecdotes as a basis for disparaging the universal healthcare approaches of all the other developed nations; approaches which provide both better outcomes and lower costs, I will use the anecdotal response that I have not met a European yet who wants to move to a US-style system.

  18. george says:

    Why the attack on the tabloids? They are routinely proven to have been correct these days. The tabloids had Arnold’s baby story years ago, now we know it was true. It’s the other so-called “papers of record” who have gone yellow, printing lies, hiding stories and propagandizing for their favorites.

    Yup. Which fills me with confidence that we’ll soon have concrete evidence of sasquatches, Elvis coming off a UFO, and six year old girls giving birth to fully grown adults.