Allegations of cruelty and neglect on Welsh wards were laid bare yesterday by an MP leading a review of hospital care after the death of her own husband.
Cynon Valley Labour MP Labour MP Ann Clwyd, whose husband died in hospital in October in “battery hen” conditions in Cardiff, told MPs that 20% of the 2,500 letters detailing patient suffering she has received from the public have come from people in Wales.
She said: “I think that’s quite a high proportion.”
Speaking during a meeting of the Welsh Grand Committee, she said: “I am very dissatisfied on the part of my own constituents about some of the responses I get from the people responsible for running the NHS… Every part of the UK has got horror stories about what’s gone wrong in the NHS.”
She praised committed staff but said there were “some very bad doctors and nurses”.
Ms Clwyd said: “People are afraid to complain. People are afraid to complain to their GPs; people are afraid to complain about their social care; people are afraid to complain in hospital and that I think is very distressing indeed.”
She read an extract from a letter written by a man who described how his mother was treated post-operation: “The morning after the operation my mother was placed in a chair at 8am. The call button was placed on the far side of the bed, out of reach and she was left there without any care, attention, food or water throughout the day until we arrived for visiting at 7pm.
“Naturally, we were very upset when she told us what had happened. We went looking for someone.
“We found the nurses all in a little room, chatting. When we asked why mam had been ignored all day, they said she should have called them.
“So soon after a big operation mam’s voice was no more than a whisper. We could barely hear her speaking, just sitting at her bedside, so she had no chance.”
Reading from a man’s account of the death of his mother, she said: “On one occasion when I arrived she said she was cold and had just one thin blanket over her. I went to talk to a nurse about this and was told, ‘We have no more blankets’.
“I was standing in disbelief; there is no excuse for patients to be cold. This was 2010, not 1910.
“I said to her, ‘Do I have to go home and get a blanket for my mum?’ She said, ‘If you feel you have to.’”
A woman complained that her father, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, had been strapped to a chair against his will.
Mr Clwyd read: “Everyone denied strapping him in a chair; they even suggested he tied himself in.”
The writer said she witnessed “neglect of the elderly” with patients unable to reach food; the nurses “stood together gossiping”.
Another woman wrote after her father’s hip replacement operation was postponed for a third time, saying: “By the time I reach 60 I will not be living in Wales as they treat the elderly worse than animals. He caught MRSA while in hospital.
“They are killing my father slowly but very surely.”
To preserve the anonymity of those who contacted her she did not name the hospitals where neglect took place.
Reading from the account of someone who had lost a loved one, she said: “I went to bed last night and cried myself to sleep as I do most nights. I was him at 10 o’clock when I was asked to leave his bedside because visiting hours were over… I told him I love you and I’ll see you tomorrow.
“We were told the consultant who was to do the operation had gone for his tea; when he came back he looked at the CT scan and told me literally to go and say our goodbyes as the prognosis didn’t look good. They took John to a dingy sideward in the back of beyond where I sat with him for almost 12 hours before he passed away.”
Ms Clwyd praised Labour Welsh Health Minister Mark Drakeford for his desire to learn lessons from Ms Clwyd’s review, which is focused on the experience of patients and their families in England.