Elderly “suffering in silence” when hospital care goes wrong

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman said too many older people are suffering in silence.
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman said too many older people are suffering in silence.
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VULNERABLE older people are “suffering in silence” when things go wrong with their NHS care, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) has said.

The body said elderly people often rely on family members to raise concerns, but a new survey found that most found it difficult to complain.

The NHS needs to make clear to patients that their care will not be compromised if they, or a relative, makes a complaint, the Ombudsman added.

Some of the distressing incidents raised with the Ombudsman and Gransnet, who surveyed 600 people whose elderly relative had been in hospital in the last year, include nurses laughing at a man who had fallen out of bed, an elderly woman being “groped” by a male patient who staff said got “confused”, and patients being forced to use “adult nappies” when they could have used a commode.

“The NHS is a lifeline for many vulnerable older people but, when things go wrong, too many are suffering in silence,” said PHSO Rob Behrens.

Cherrill Cliff, vice-chairman of Leeds Older People’s Forum said: “A lot of older people don’t have anyone to advocate on their behalf. When you are 80 or 90 and frail, complaining is hard, and there is a gratefulness that comes with that generation that does hide a lot of suffering.”

The chief executive of Healthwatch Leeds, Tanya Matilainen, said: “In Leeds we have worked with the NHS and adult social care to make raising a concern as inclusive and easy as possible.

“It is important that people feel confident that they can have their voice heard without fear that it would affect the services they use.

“Locally Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust has done some excellent work for example their ‘speak to sister get a message to matron’ campaign to lower barriers and allow more people to share their feedback.”

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