The Daily Mail reminds us how government health care is compassionate and efficient;
So imagine my shock when I saw how some nurses recently treated my elderly aunt.
Annie was a stoical Yorkshire woman, and a devout Christian; she’d dedicated her life to helping others, training as a nurse and midwife before moving to Africa, where she set up several hospitals and nursing schools.
She was so committed to helping the poor that she undertook a postgraduate study on kwashiorkor – a muscle-wasting tropical disease caused by malnutrition.
Yet, with appalling irony, 50 years later my aunt spent her twilight months wasting away in an NHS hospital – as a result of malnutrition. Only this time the cause was a very British disease: neglectful care.
As someone who has also dedicated her life to nursing, it would be an understatement to say I was deeply disappointed by the lack of attention my aunt received from nursing staff during two hospital stays in 2005 and 2006.
Nurses consistently failed to wash her for months, feed her or give her anything to drink – basics that any patient should expect. By the time my aunt was discharged into a nursing home – frail and disorientated -she weighed just 36kg.
Blood tests in hospital had revealed she was suffering from kidney failure – no doubt because of a lack of fluids and nutrition.
I witnessed the beginning of the end when I saw my aunt after she had been admitted to hospital in 2005. She had cellulitis (a tissue infection) in her right leg.
Even though I knew she had been becoming more dependent on others before this, I was shocked by what I found when I visited her: she was slumped sideways in a large chair, with her hair unkempt and in a gown four sizes too big.
Part of the gown had fallen off her right shoulder, exposing her naked chest in full view of the patient in the bed next to her – an elderly man.
I was very upset, but when I complained to the nurse in charge, she just shrugged her shoulders.
Yes, our system is an inefficient amalgam of public and private. But at least patient choice exists–in contrast to monopoly state systems.