Watchdog: lack of care and compassion for 91-year-old at BGH

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When a 91-year-old woman suffering from dementia was admitted to the BGH with a blood infection on March 9 last year, she could walk with a stick and independently feed herself.

When she was discharged back to her care home on April 5, she could neither stand nor eat without assistance and, within three days of being readmitted for “end-of-life” care on June 13, she was dead.

Yesterday, the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) published a scathing report on the lack of nursing care the woman – referred to as Mrs A – received during her two stays with NHS Borders.

The watchdog has upheld a litany of harrowing complaints which were levelled by Mrs A’s daughter (Mrs C).

After the SPSO made no fewer than eight recommendations to NHS Borders, chief executive Jane Davidson issued the following statement: “I would like to publicly apologise on behalf of NHS Borders to Mrs C and her family for what has happened and our failings in this case.

“I recognise our standards of care to our patient and to the family fell short. We fully accept the findings in the report and are taking the recommendations very seriously.”

The SPSO concluded Mrs A received inadequate care and treatment on both occasions and that the attitude of, and communication from, nursing staff was unreasonable.

By publishing a full 31-page report, rather than the usual brief summary, the watchdog acknowledges “the significant personal injustice suffered by Mrs A and her family”.

The most serious charges upheld yesterday related to her first stay at the BGH.

“She [Mrs C] said there did not appear to be any procedures in place to safeguard dementia patients…and staff did not take steps to find out about Mrs A’s fears and anxieties, likes and dislikes and what calmed her distress,” reported the SPSO.

“Mrs A was put in an isolation ward and, despite the family informing staff she had a fear of being on her own and asking them to pop in on a regular basis, they arrived most days to find her alone with the door closed, distressed and shouting.”

Having sustained a fractured wrist before being admitted, Mrs A was often seen by the frustrated family not wearing the splint she had been given. They noted drinks were persistently left out of her reach and, although she could not lift a cup by herself, she was given no assistance to eat or drink.

“Mrs C also raised concerns that Mrs A was not assisted with her personal care, noting she remained in dirty clothes, despite the family delivering clean clothing when requested, her hair remained unbrushed and her nails dirty.”

Evelyn Rodger, director of nursing and midwifery with NHS Borders, told The Southern: “I regret the poor care and treatment, our inadequate communication and the lack of support and compassion the patient and family received.

“This year, the health board appointed a nurse consultant post in dementia to provide a sustained focus on building knowledge and expertise in caring for patients with dementia, including the importance of clear, compassionate and timely communication between patients, their families, carers and our staff.”