Jeremy Hunt, the Health Minister, has starkly criticised the NHS for treating patients with contempt, coldness, indifference, cruelty and even resentment. He went so far as to admit that in the worst cases there has been a ‘normalisation of cruelty.’ Jeremy Hunt’s frank assessment of the mistreatment experienced by many NHS patients should be bourne in mind by MPs in the New Year when they, yet again, consider a bill seeking to legalise assisted suicide.
The Daily Telegraph reports:
‘In the worse cases staff have overseen “a kind of normalisation of cruelty”, Jeremy Hunt told an audience of health professionals at The King’s Fund, a London-based think-tank.
Managers were so “buried in spreadsheets” that they had become “blind” to the fact that patients were not being treated with dignity or respect, he said. Poor care had become “perhaps the biggest problem of all facing the NHS”, Mr Hunt claimed in his strongest speech yet on the NHS, almost three months into his tenure as Health Secretary.
In a passionate speech, Mr Hunt cited numerous examples of appalling NHS care.
He said: “Just look at what has come to light in the last few years: patients left to lie in their own excrement in Stafford Hospital, with members of the public taking soiled sheets home to wash because they didn’t believe the hospital would do it.
“The man with dementia who was supposed to be monitored every 15 minutes who managed to leave Pontypool Hospital and drown.
“The residents kicked punched, humiliated, dragged by their hair and forced through cold showers at Winterbourne View.
“The elderly woman with dementia repeatedly punched and slapped at Ash Court Care Home.
“The cancer patient at St George’s, Tooting, who lost a third of his body fluid, desperately ringing the police for help, because staff didn’t listen or check his medical records.”
These were not “isolated incidents”, he said, but appeared with such “depressing regularity” that they indicated problems which were in places “part of the fabric”.
He continued: “The most worrying thing is the fact that in certain institutions this kind of care appears to have become normal.
“In places that should be devoted to patients, where compassion should be uppermost, we find its very opposite: a coldness, resentment, indifference, even contempt.
“Go deeper and look at the worst cases like Mid Staffs and Winterbourne View, and there is something even darker: a kind of normalisation of cruelty where the unacceptable is legitimised and the callous becomes mundane.”
Up to 1,200 patients are thought to have died over several years at Mid Staffordshire hospitals due to shocking care, which saw some resorting to drinking water from flower vases.
Protect the Pope comment: Does anyone seriously doubt that in certain hospitals and residential homes doctors and nurses perpetrating the normalisation of cruelty would force vulnerable patients to kill themselves through bullying? The Health Minister’s frank and shocking admission of the abuse of patients in the NHS should figure prominently when MPs debate and vote on assisted suicide in January.
Written safeguards are not going to be enough to save patients from such callousness, contempt and resentment.