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'PoW camp' claim on elderly patients' care

PUBLISHED: 10:13 25 February 2011

Michael Marler at home with his wife Monica. Mr Marler is upset at the treatment that his wife recieved  at the James Paget Hospital.

Michael Marler at home with his wife Monica. Mr Marler is upset at the treatment that his wife recieved at the James Paget Hospital.

Archant © 2011

A LOWESTOFT man has criticised the care given by staff at the James Paget University Hospital to his wife and other elderly patients, likening the ward to "a prisoner-of-war camp".

Michael Marler, 82, of Stanton Close, called an ambulance for his wife Monica, 80, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, to have her admitted to hospital because she was not eating.

But when he went to visit her the next day, he says, he was horrified to find she had not been given any food.

Mr Marler is also furious that Monica was not washed once during her three-day stay at the hospital and says he had to help other elderly patients in the same ward after staff ignored their pleas for help.

His criticism came only days after a health service ombudsman’s report criticised the NHS for failing to treat elderly patients with care, dignity and respect. Its conclusions followed an in-depth review of 10 cases nationally in which patients aged over 65 suffered unnecessary pain, neglect and distress.

Mr Marler said he was shocked when he went to visit Monica after she had been admitted to the Gorleston hospital on February 5.

He said: “I spoke to the nurse and said I was rather alarmed that nothing had been given to my wife because the reason she was in hospital was because she had not eaten or drunk anything. I went three times a day to give her little things because it was clear that she had not received any attention.

“The nurse did prepare four little sandwiches for her, but no effort was made to try and give them to her.

“The help and care is just not given. She may be senile or has a serious illness and no one has come up and said: ‘Come on, my lovely – try a little bit of this or a bit of that.’”

Mr Marler, a former factory supervisor, said a neighbouring patient was crying “Help, help, 
water, water!” so he gave her some drink.

“On the same side, another couple of patients said: ‘I want some help,’ and the nurse said: ‘I want some help, too,’ and left her,” he added.

Mr Marler, a great-grandfather, said there were six nurses and two doctors on duty, but it was only when he threatened to sue the hospital that anyone finally went over to help his wife.

“It was like a prisoner-of-war camp. I am not saying it was hostile: more that the staff showed a negative attitude. It was like these people did not exist and should not have been there in the first place.”

But Mr Marler insisted he did not have an axe to grind against the James Paget and pointed out that he had received good treatment when he visited its eye clinic to have his sight tested.

His prime concern was that elderly patients received the care they deserved.

He said: “These people were born in the 1920s and 1930s and have worked hard and paid national insurance all their lives, so I think they are entitled to good care at the end of their lives.”

A hospital spokesman said the James Paget had taken several steps to ensure that older patients were properly cared for. It had introduced same-sex accommodation, protected meal times and had the Essence of Care programme, which covered communication, nutrition, hydration and personal care.

“We do have a number of initiatives in place to ensure that the quality of care we give to our elderly patients is of a very high standard,” he said. “We consider the patients’ safety and their privacy and dignity to be the primary focus of the care we deliver.”

Julia Hunt, chief matron at the James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are always disappointed to receive any complaints where care has not been of the highest standard. We are sorry that on this occasion the care received has not met expectations.”

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