Purge of nurses promised after report reveals shocking cruelty suffered by 1m NHS patients

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Bad nurses will be purged from the NHS after a report detailed shocking cruelty towards the elderly.

The study by the Patients' Association said up to a million people had suffered poor care over the past five years.

It gave harrowing examples of 'cruel' and 'demeaning' treatment, including patients left lying in soiled bedclothes, having personal alarms confiscated and having to go without food or drink.

The Government's chief nursing officer, Christine Beasley, said nurses who offer very poor levels of care should be struck off the medical register and banned from working in the NHS.

Agony aunt and former nurse Claire Rayner, president of the Patients' Association, said she was 'sickened' by what had happened.

                         Appalling: The report found standards of care at Stafford Hospital appalling

She said: 'We need the professional bodies to be much tougher with their members. They must make it absolutely clear that they will not tolerate poor service, and strike them off the register, which is a very, very powerful thing to do - they can't work again.'

The Daily Mail has highlighted the poor quality of NHS care for many elderly people, in particular the risk of malnutrition because many are not helped to eat.

Critics say too much training takes place in college rather than at the bedside, with the result that too many nurses see helping frail patients as demeaning.

Last year, 210 nurses were struck off the register entirely, 68 were suspended and 126 were cautioned. The number of complaints has soared over the past five years.

But the report stressed that the vast majority of patients are happy with the care they or their families have received on the NHS, with 43 per cent of those questioned describing it as 'excellent'. Only 2 per cent said their care was poor.

Christine Beasley said the shocking stories of cruelty contained in a damning report from the Patients Association were distressing and should make 'sombre reading for the nursing profession'.

The study by the Patients Association revealed how some had been left without food or drink and others forced to sleep in soiled bedclothes.

The charity estimates up to a million patients have experienced poor care from the NHS in recent years.

Ms Beasley said the care offered to some of the patients was 'clearly unacceptable'.

She added: 'They make not only very distressing reading for patients but very sombre reading for the nursing profession.

'I think any nurse that provides that sort of care - or in fact does not provide that sort of care - should be treated very, very seriously and if necessary, if it's at that level, should absolutely be struck off'.

Unveiling the report, Claire Rayner said she was 'sickened' by the deteriorating standards of her former profession.

The agony aunt, who is chairman of the Patients Association, called for bad nurses to be struck off.

The association holds a database of hundreds of stories of patients badly treated by the NHS. The report presents 16 of those in detail.

Among them was 86-year-old Leslie Kirk, who had to endure a 'nightmare of NHS care' after a stroke.

Toilets he used were not cleaned properly and his personal alarm was taken away apparently because he rang it too much.

Meanwhile lung cancer sufferer Colin Purkiss Smith, who was being treated at the Princess Royal University Hospital in Bromley, was forced to soil himself after waiting an hour for help.

Mr Purkiss, who died when he was 62, was unable to eat solid food but was given no alternative at the hospital. Despite having difficulty drinking, he was not offered a straw or a beaker.

The report comes months after the Healthcare Commission found appalling standards of care at Stafford Hospital, which led to between 400 and 1,200 more patients dying than would have been expected in a three-year period.

Katherine Murphy, director of the Patients Association, said similarly bad standards could be found elsewhere.

She called for the health watchdog, the Care Quality Commission, to conduct an 'urgent review of the standards of basic care' in hospital.

'These accounts tell the story of the 2 per cent of patients that consistently rate their care as poor,' she said. 'If this was extrapolated to the whole of the NHS from 2002 to 2008 it would equate to over one million patients.

'Very often these are the most vulnerable elderly and terminally ill patients.'

In a foreword to the report, Mrs Rayner said: 'For far too long now, we have 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.'

She added: 'These bad, cruel nurses may be - probably are - a tiny proportion of the nursing work force, but even if they are only 1 or 2 per cent of the whole they should be identified and struck off the register.'

The Daily Mail has highlighted the poor standards of nursing care as part of its Dignity for the Elderly campaign.

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said the vast majority of nurses were 'decent, highly skilled individuals'.

Chief Nursing Officer for the Department fo Health, Chris Beasley, said: 'All patients deserve the highest quality of care from the NHS and the poor care received in these cases is simply unacceptable.

'Where care falls below expected standards, this can be distressing for the patients concerned and their families and we expect trusts to take immediate action to investigate and ensure this does not happen again. Patients and their families — and indeed staff — should feel able to raise this with the hospital management. continues here

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