Thursday, 13 October 2011

Care of the Elderly

The shocking report of the Care Quality Commission (CQC)  ( is no surprise.

Central to the poor care of the elderly in our hospitals is a lack of leadership and compassion.  This "culture" of poor care arises out of a lack of accountability.    Those who know what is right and what is wrong are often too fearful to speak out.  Whistle blowing, far from being encouraged, is condemned.  Whistle blowers are ostracised and punished for speaking out.  Understandably so few have the courage to do so.  I have represented many families at inquests where their only interest is to bring out into public exposure the appalling levels of care which contributed to the deaths of their loved ones in the most despicable circumstances.

On this morning's Today Programme on Radio 4 at 08.10, the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley encouraged everyone to speak out wherever shameful treatment of patients occurs.  I believe that all NHS staff, patients and their relatives have this responsibility.  They should speak to the hospital managers and copy correspondence to the CQC.

I have been around in medicine and the law for a long time.  Robbie's Law Trust (RLT) has been campaigning for years for honesty and accountability in the NHS.  There needs not only to be an enforceable professional responsibility to ensure that patient's interest are always put first and that bad practice and behaviour is exposed, there needs also to be legal responsibility at contractual level.  Consideration should be given to an enforceable statutory duty (with appropriate penalties for failure) on all healthcare workers to report care which places patients at risk of physical or mental harm or abuse.

With some trepidation, I would ask those healthcare workers who are aware of these practices which those of good conscience recognise as unacceptable to write in confidence to me at  I will do my best to reply.  If, for no other reason, copying me in (without disclosing patient identity) may offer some further protection to those who have the courage to speak out.  

This is in the public interest.