BGH faults found by inspectors are nothing new to patients

How long will it take bosses at Borders General Hospital (BGH) to learn from the recent shocking report by the Healthcare Inspectorate into poor standards of care provided for elderly and or demented patients?

Woefully poor care as described in the report was highlighted by me in 2010 in a series of letters of complaint regarding these very issues to Calum Campbell, the chief executive of NHS Borders, who initially failed to respond in person to my letters, preferring to pass them on to complaints officers. At the same time, in less detail, certain points were raised with Christine Graham, the SNP MSP – no response other than a three-word acknowledgement. Managers then churned out the same promises as described in Mark Entwistle’s article (TheSouthern, September 6).

l would be interested to know how many bank or agency staff are called in to give extra cover during an inspection. One patient told me that before and after inspection days, little or no help was available for patients having difficulty at mealtimes. Miraculously extra help materialised at lunchtime on inspection days.

Ward sisters, charge nurses or ward managers used to take overall responsibility to direct and oversee the care and treatment of their patients. No longer. With the advent of “the named nurse”, the person in charge of a ward does not appear to interact with patients.

A friend, never to her knowledge saw the sister, charge nurse or manager during her recent several week stay in the BGH. Nurses no longer wear their name badges nor do they display their designation.

On a recent visit to a BGH elderly care rehab ward, I noted a blackboard on the wall with three christian names displayed, as the carers for that room for that day. How does an elderly patient with poor eyesight or dementia know who is who? The same applies to visitors, relatives and no doubt to other professionals working within the so called team.

I had occasion to visit the BGH outpatients recently. One member of staff was wearing a name badge, if one, why not all? Is it to confuse patients and their relatives? Perhaps, the reasoning is so that they cannot be identified when they fail to respond to patient need.

The Scottish Borders Council Tory leader, Michelle Ballantyne, is right when she infers that present nurse training has not been beneficial. There needs to be a radical rethink regarding skill mix in wards caring for an increasingly older often confused and agitated patients.

Patients need help at the time they ask for it, not when it suits staff. It does not take registered nurses to escort patients to the toilet. The patient-registered nurse ratio has increased greatly but registered nurses are bogged down with paper-work.

As one nurse put it to me when admitting a patient last week: “We even have a form to complete to say we have ticked the boxes of the already completed tick-box forms!”

Another major problem for nurses “processing” their ever increasing BGH patient throughput is a serious lack of space. One nurse told us there were 52 admissions through Ward 4 in 24 hours last week.

In wards caring for ever frailer, older patients, so much equipment is needed for each individual patient. Sticks, crutches, zimmers, individual wheelchairs, hoists, drip stands, drainage bag stands, monitor, all crammed in to six-bed wards. No wonder we see cross-contamination.

Managers need to realise that patient numbers need to be reduced from six-bedded bays, to five or even fewer. This would allow a modicum of privacy and a little dignity during their hospital journey.

A.M. Maude Brownlie