NHS scandal as hospital patient dies after “wallowing in filth”

April 27, 2010 | by | 3 Comments

A devastated daughter whose mother died after being left ”wallowing in filth” in an NHS hospital has accused Gordon Brown of betraying the elderly.

Tragic Clara Mary Stokes, 84, honoured last year by the Prime Minister for her work as a Land Girl during WWII, was left partially paralysed by a massive stroke in December 2009.

Her daughter Elle Chambers, 57, claims her subsequent care at Luton and Dunstable Hospital was ”inhumane” and ”not fit for dogs”.

The shocked mum-of-two said widow Clara was ignored by overworked nurses who left her dehydrated, hungry and lying in her own faeces for up to six hours.

In a series of sickening pictures taken by Mrs Chambers on the hospital ward, Clara can be seen lying helpless and confused in the filth with her foot trapped in the bedstead.

Mrs Chambers and her daughter Michelle Plaford, 37, also found that water had been placed too far from her bed and no staff had come to help her drink for up to 16 hours.

The pair were so reviled by conditions they tried to feed other hungry and thirsty patients, only to be told by nursing staff they could not for ”health and safety reasons”.

At one stage the hospital almost ran out of supplies so nurses trawled wards for medication, Mrs Chambers claims.

A temporary nurse misread Mrs Stokes’ notes and forced uncrushed tablets down her throat causing her almost to choke to death.

And doctors and nurses misplaced health notes and even thought Mrs Stokes was a man for the first two days, after she was admitted on December 16, her family say.

Outraged at the blunders, the family removed Clara, a retired hairdresser, from the hospital in Luton, Beds., and she died in a nursing home just days later on February 28.

Mrs Chambers wrote to Gordon Brown following the death to complain of the ”negligence”, and was told by No.10 the matter had been passed to the Department of Health.

Tearful Mrs Chambers, of Boston, Lincs., said: ”Gordon Brown said the country depended on her for survival but when she depended on her country for her survival where was it?

”I cannot stand to see Gordon Brown spouting off about the good he has done for the health service.

”It sickens me. He would never say the same if it were his own mother being treated in such an inhumane way.”

Mrs Chambers and daughter Michelle, of Northampton, spent every day in the stroke ward between midday and 8pm changing, washing and feeding Mrs Stokes.

Mrs Stokes, of Luton, was left paralysed down the left side of her body by the stroke and unable to speak.

But when her ward was in isolation following a stomach bug outbreak access by nurses and visiting hours was restricted.

She added: ”We finally walked in and my daughter said what is that under her arm? We lifted it up and she was covered in her own diarrhoea.

”She was paralysed and couldn’t call for help. This was after 3pm in the afternoon and the last time she had been checked was at 9am.”

The excrement was up to her belly-button and took nurses an hour to clean-up.

Just 24 hours later the family found a stricken Mrs Stokes’ foot trapped between bed posts caused by a faulty bed pump.

It was not known how long she was trapped and had to be freed by the matron.

Mrs Chambers added: ”I think dogs are treated better than my mother was. She was left in a pond of her own filth. Worse than an animal.

”The nurses were so overworked they haven’t the time to be compassionate.

”It’s so sad she was in a terrible state. My mum was 84, she was a really lively woman and was well-loved.

”They gave out food but left it out of reach of patients. You are lying there, hungry, you can’t move because you’ve had a stroke and there is food just out of reach.

”We were warned not to feed them but you can’t just sit there and watch.

”My daughter and I were endlessly helping out other patients.

”I’ve grown up with the National Health Service I’m just praying I don’t get ill.”

At one stage the ward had no thickener used in liquids given to stroke patients to prevent them choking, and after Mrs Chambers complained a small cup was found,

But when she came back to the ward 16 hours later the cup had not been touched and her mother was suffering severe dehydration.

She was briefly moved to Capwell Grange Nursing Home on January 14 but returned to the hospital because she was not eating or drinking.

The family and doctors agreed to stop her support and she died on February 28.

Mrs Stokes was married to husband Roy for 50 years before he died 10 years ago with cancer. They had two other children David, 55, and Andrew, 51.

During the Second World War she was in the Land Army, made popular by the 1998 film Land Girls starring Anna Friel and Rachel Weisz.

She farmed and harvested the land in Leighton Buzzard, Beds, while all the men were fighting the Nazis.

Last summer she was given a medal and thanked by Gordon Brown at a ceremony in Bedford.

Mr Brown signed Clara’s Land Girl certificate praising her efforts ”at a time when our country depended upon you for its survival” in WWII and awarding her a medal.

Women were put to work in farms across Britain during Second World War as part of the war effort and affectionately known as Land Girls.

In 2007 the government announced it would reward the efforts of 30,000 surviving Land Girls with The Badge of Honour medal and certificate.

Mrs Chambers, who lives with retired firefighter husband Colin, 66, said her experience left her fearing ever having to rely on the NHS.

Luton and Dunstable Hospital apologised to the family yesterday and said it was investigating the complaints.

A spokesman denied Mrs Stokes was left unattended or that she was ever deprived of food, medication or and water

Staff asked Mrs Chambers and her daughter not to interfere with patient’s mealtimes, she added.

She said: ”We regret that Mrs Stokes’ family have felt the need to complain about her care while she was on ward 17 and ward 15 and the hospital has apologised for any distressing circumstances recognising how upsetting some aspects of personal care can be for relatives.

”Staff had a number of conversations about care and progress with the family during the patient’s stay. The formal investigation into Mrs Chambers’ complaint is continuing.”

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Comments (3)

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  1. mdpugh says:

    This is exactly the same experience we had with my father in law at the Royal Worcester Hospital. He died 30 Kg lighter after hip surgery- they did not feed him but rather let him waste away. No one can heal after surgery in a state of malnourishment. The care really is abysmal and the response to that is to limit access in the name of privacy- what possible need is there to protect privacy of a 90 yr old documented confused man from his only child??? In addition the surgeon had the gall to operate without ever discussing with us the plan or requesting consent- he simply wrote the order, asked a "colleague" to co-sgin the surgical consent and off they went. The NHS has an awful lot to answer for as do the consultants.

  2. mdpugh says:

    This is exactly the same experience we had with my father in law at the Royal Worcester Hospital. He died 30 Kg lighter after hip surgery- they did not feed him but rather let him waste away. No one can heal after surgery in a state of malnourishment. The care really is abysmal and the response to that is to limit access in the name of privacy- what possible need is there to protect privacy of a 90 yr old documented confused man from his only child??? In addition the surgeon had the gall to operate without ever discussing with us the plan or requesting consent- he simply wrote the order, asked a "colleague" to co-sgin the surgical consent and off they went. The NHS has an awful lot to answer for as do the consultants.

  3. Jim Thompson says:

    The same things happen in the US. My mother was left in her own feces, drugged up on unnecessary pain pills for most of the day. She was unable to safely drink liquids after her stroke, but each day there was a large 32 ounce cup of water by her to drink unaided from. I wanted a sign put up that said no liquids by mouth but was told it contravened the Patient Privacy Act. She contracted CDIF whilst in care which was left untreated.

    The day I was to pick her up she could barely breathe, you could plainly hear the liquid in her lungs. I mentioned this to the “nurse” and she said ‘oh listen to her, she is so excited to be going home!’ I said can’t you hear the liquid in her lungs and she said she hadn’t noticed it and didn’t have a stethoscope. Turned out they hadn’t been giving her one of her meds because they didn’t have any. I could go on and on.

    However that said there has been some good care here over the years for her. I think you will find instances we can point to in most countries and use as examples for poor care as well as good care.

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