Free Markets, Free People

NHS “Neglectful, Demeaning, Painful … Cruel Treatment”

There was a bit of a push-back a week or so ago on Twitter by Brits who wanted us to quit dissing their National Health Service and to say how very happy they were with it. However a report from the Patients Association seems to beg to differ with the happy Twits. They’ve found that the care provided within the NHS is really nothing to brag about:

In the last six years, the Patients Association claims hundreds of thousands have suffered from poor standards of nursing, often with ‘neglectful, demeaning, painful and sometimes downright cruel’ treatment.

The charity has disclosed a horrifying catalogue of elderly people left in pain, in soiled bed clothes, denied adequate food and drink, and suffering from repeatedly cancelled operations, missed diagnoses and dismissive staff.

The Patients Association said the dossier proves that while the scale of the scandal at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust – where up to 1,200 people died through failings in urgent care – was a one off, there are repeated examples they have uncovered of the same appalling standards throughout the NHS.

Interestingly, much of the complaining has to do with the nurses in the system:

While the criticisms cover all aspects of hospital care, the treatment and attitude of nurses stands out as a repeated theme across almost all of the cases.


Claire Rayner, President of the Patients Association and a former nurse, said:“For far too long now, the Patients Association has been receiving calls on our helpline from people wanting to talk about the dreadful, neglectful, demeaning, painful and sometimes downright cruel treatment their elderly relatives had experienced at the hands of NHS nurses.

“I am sickened by what has happened to some part of my profession of which I was so proud.

“These bad, cruel nurses may be – probably are – a tiny proportion of the nursing work force, but even if they are only one or two percent of the whole they should be identified and struck off the Register.”

The charity has published a selection of personal accounts from hundreds of relatives of patients, most of whom died, following their care in NHS hospitals.

Now I have no idea how the government bureaucracy which is charged with hiring and firing medical personnel in the UK works, but it is a bureaucracy and I’m sure it has a very long and difficult procedure that is required before anyone can be let go. Additionally, my guess is that the UK suffers from a nursing shortage just like most of the rest of the world. So it is my guess – and that’s all it is – that the nurses cited in the report, which they claim are probably a “tiny proportion”, have been complained about for years. I’d further guess that should another report be authored in another 5 years by the Patients Association, the same complaints received now will be received then because, given the shortage and difficult procedure necessary to fire a nurse, the same nurses will be working and performing just as they have in the past.

But that’s just me guessing based on my experience with government bureaucracies. And, I’d further assert that it is and always will be a systemic problem with any government bureaucracy.



7 Responses to NHS “Neglectful, Demeaning, Painful … Cruel Treatment”

  • Like I have said here, I lived in the UK in 2005 in a rented flat on the West End of London, in a place called Westbourne Grove. I love London. But the health care in England is the pits, so I hired a fee-for-service doctor whose offices were in Knightsbridge, round the corner from Harrod’s. Pricey, expensive to say the least, nevertheless I was able to get a doctor outside of the NHS system who catered to MY needs when I wanted them, not vice-versa. If anyone knows anything about living in the UK, you will know how expensive Knightsbridge is. (It is akin to Fifth Avenue in New York City.)

    God help us all if The Clown™ succeeds in foisting ObamaCare℠ down out throats. It will make Britain’s NHS look like a great system. (BTW, the UK’s NHS is the largest employer in that country. Imagine that here.)

  • James Marsden,
    So if we pass a reform bill that includes a modest public option we will get a system worse than Britain’s NHS? Were you hyperventilating when you typed this?

    • Obama has made clear he prefers a single payer plan and plans to get there eventually.

      There will be incentives for business to drop coverage of employees. (in HR3200)

      No new insurance can be sold outside the exchange. (in HR3200)

      Plans that are better than the public option will be taxed (“Cadillac plans”)

      The public option will continue the cost shifting to private plans and will be subsidized, so private insurance will have to “compete” in an unfair “market”.

      It’s pretty clear the intention of HR3200 is wind up with single payer, and if the regulatory thumbscrews are not tight enough, they will be tightened in future legislation.

      If Obamacare is so good, why are the congresscritters exempting themselves from it?

  • Modest” public option?

  • NYC is having success paying bad teacher 100k and then letting them sit in rubber rooms. NHS could do the same.

    ps. Are the nurses unionized in the UK? Bureaucracry + Union = Bad

  • James Marsden is the exception, not the rule, and the real issue in his argument can be found in the phrase “when I wanted them”. The NHS is a shared system designed to deliver medical care according to clinical need. Not according to how much you can pay, or when you want it, but according to whether your issue is critical enough to delay someone else’s procedure. Who else but doctors and surgeons should decide if, when and what treatment is actually necessary ?

    I have been privileged to receive the attention of NHS staff on more than one occasion and each and every time was treated effectively and well. I have NEVER witnessed or spoken to ANYONE who has witnessed cruelty or mistreatment. I’m not saying it has never happened, but it’s a tiny minority, nothing like the epidemic that the right-wing media makes it out to be.

    Ironically, incidences of professional failure/misconduct and complaints have risen since the NHS started using agency nurses on contract – unnecessarily paying high fees to privately-owned nursing agencies – instead of sticking to the tried and tested NHS hiring practices.