THE NEGLECT OF THE ELDERLY IN THE NHS
This has been another bad few weeks for the NHS. Channel Four aired a programme on 28 February 2011 (Dispatches : Secret NHS Diaries) which made very uncomfortable viewing – it highlighted the shocking inadequacies of palliative care in the NHS. It featured an elderly man spending his final days in hospital. He was treated with appalling insensitivity by the nursing staff, even during simple everyday tasks such as mealtimes.
This programme came in the wake of a damming report from Ann Abraham, the Health Service Ombudsman, who had carried out an in-depth review of ten cases all involving patients aged over 65, and concluded that they all had suffered unnecessary pain, neglect and distress.
While the Ombudsman’s Care and Compassionate Report was only based on ten cases, she said that they were far from isolated examples.
Of nearly 9,000 complaints made to the Ombudsman last year, 18% were about the care of older people. In total, they accepted 226 cases for investigation – twice as many as for all the other age groups combined.
The Ombudsman is only contacted once a complaint cannot be resolved by the individual NHS Trust. She concluded that there was a gulf between the principles and values of the NHS and the reality being experienced by older patients.
We at S J Edney agree with the Ombudsman’s conclusion that the NHS is failing to treat all their elderly patients “with care, dignity and respect”. We are often contacted by older patients (or more often their families) who feel that they have been very let down by the NHS. Their complaints vary from there being a failure to provide them with adequate personal care; little if any communication and/or an explanation in terms which they can understand as to what is exactly wrong with them; unnecessary injuries such as pressure sores and not affording them sufficient dignity.
The majority of these older patients do not wish to make a compensation claim but simply need assistance from us in making a formal complaint to the Hospital Trust in the hope that this will ensure that another patient does not go through a similar experience to theirs.
All of us are grateful to the NHS and their staff for the wonderful service they provide to the majority of their patients. We acknowledge their staff see over a million people every 36 hours and the overwhelming majority of these patients receive good care.
Nevertheless, the care received by the elderly patient in the Dispatches programme and those identified by the Ombudsman in her report, was quite dreadful and should not have been allowed to happen.
We need a culture within the NHS where poor practice is challenged and the dignity of older people should always be respected.
RETURN TO UNI
Seamus Edney would like to thank the staff and students at Reading University for their very warm welcome and hospitality on the 2 February 2011. He had been invited back as a former graduate to talk to the students about life in legal practice and he was also asked to help judge a “Negotiating Competition”. He was impressed by the calibre of the students hoping to enter into the legal profession and their altruistic reasons for choosing to become a lawyer. It was a privilege to be invited back to Reading University where Seamus spent three very happy years of his life and it was good to see the Law School has grown substantially since his time as a student and continues to be rated as one of the best Law Schools in the country.
IS THE UK OVER-LAWYERED?
The Times ran an interesting article in their “Law Section” on the 24 March 2011. They posed a question on whether there was enough work for so many solicitors. It appears that in both good and bad times, the number of lawyers continues to rise.
Figures from the Solicitors Regulation Authority show that the solicitors’ profession in England and Wales is 150% bigger than a generation ago. There are concerns that this bubble may burst very shortly.
The United States tops the lawyer league table with one for every 265 Americans. Britain is in 6th place, with 1 for every 401 people. The general view amongst legal commentators is that this is too many. Since 1985, the number of solicitors practicing has grown from 47,000 to about 118,000.
According to The Times, much of the boom in solicitor numbers is down to two factors: the 1986 Big Bang liberalisation of financial services and the City law firms’ success in their overseas expansion.
The tide may be about to turn especially in light of the Legal Services Act 2007 which comes into force during October 2011 allowing alternative business structures and external investment in law firms. This development could see the rise of non qualified paralegals instead of qualified solicitors which could see a reduction in vacancies for lawyers.
We suspect that there will always be a need for a healthy legal profession. London will continue to remain one of the top legal centres as a number of global companies (and overseas law firms) are based in London. Many global commercial agreements are governed by English law.
We also live in a very regulated society. People are now more litigious than they were a generation ago. Quite rightly, if they believe they have been wronged by local or central government, the medical profession, landlords, big businesses and other authorities, they will take legal advice. The Human Rights Act has also created a number of new legal remedies for people. The government also continues to make a number of new laws at an alarming rate – for example, the last Labour government created some 3600 new criminal offences during their three terms of office.
Client Referral Scheme
If a former or an existing client recommends either a friend or a member of their family to our firm for advice about an accident or medical negligence claim and we are able to help them, as a token of our thanks we would give that client a £100.00 worth of vouchers of their choice or alternatively make a donation of this value to their nominated charity.