Hospital of humiliation: Patients had to endure four nights on a day ward and were forced to use cardboard bowls to wash themselves
Patients endured ‘completely unacceptable’ conditions when they were forced to stay in a hospital’s day-surgery ward for up to four days because of NHS bed shortages.
With no showers on the ward, they had to clean themselves in disposable cardboard wash bowls filled with water.
And because there were no proper catering facilities, they were given sandwiches and frozen ready meals heated in a microwave instead of freshly prepared food.
Patients on the ward also had to leave their belongings on the floor because there were no bedside cupboards.
The failings were discovered at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, by Care Quality Commission inspectors.
To ensure the ‘safety and wellbeing’ of patients, the watchdog body has now banned the hospital from keeping them on the day-surgery ward for more than 24 hours.
Patients on the day unit did not receive freshly cooked meals for days and washed in disposable bowls
The disposable cardboard wash bowls they were required to use are favoured by NHS staff over plastic ones as there is a lower risk of infections being spread between patients.
Due to a clause in the hospital’s catering contract, it cannot provide patients with hot food from the kitchen on the day- surgery ward.
Patients were only meant to stay in the unit for up to 24 hours before being discharged or transferred to another ward, but some had to remain there for four days.
Malcolm Bower-Brown, deputy director of the CQC in the North, said: ‘The failings we witnessed on this unit at Pinderfields Hospital were completely unacceptable.
‘The CQC took swift action following our inspection to ensure the safety and wellbeing of patients. ‘The decision to place an urgent condition on a provider’s registration is not one we take lightly. However, when we find poor practice, as we did in this case, we will take immediate action to ensure patients are not at risk.’
The hospital will now have to prove to the watchdog that it has made substantial improvements and may face further inspections. Patients staying in the ward had all undergone day surgery including having hernias removed, varicose vein treatment or dental operations.
Most having such procedures are allowed to go home on the same day, but some have to stay on after developing complications or taking longer to recover.
Diane Abbott, Labour’s shadow public health minister, said: ‘The failings here are totally unacceptable, and it’s a real concern that incidents like this seem to be becoming increasingly commonplace because of the strain the NHS has been put under.’
David used to be an ambulance man. He had a heart attack but his local A&E had been closed down. He should be alive today: Tragic stories behind the casualty closures
David Smith spent much of his working life as an ambulanceman, saving lives by administering basic first aid as patients were being rushed to their nearest hospital.
But when he suffered a heart attack and needed the urgent attention of the NHS himself, paramedics had to drive him to a hospital half an hour away, in a different county, because his local A&E had closed.
And there he died, at the age of 67. His widow, Linda, is convinced the delay made the difference between life and death for her husband.
Mr Smith, who was an ambulance worker in London in the Sixties and Seventies, had barely been ill a day in his life. He was active at home in Newark, Nottinghamshire, and doted on his two grown-up daughters, forever helping them around the house and garden.
Mrs Smith, 69, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘It was dreadful. I didn’t realise that our local hospital wasn’t accepting heart attack patients. You only realise when you suddenly can’t get treatment there.
‘I was shocked. I feel pretty certain that if David had been taken to the local hospital then he would still be here today. I’m convinced of that. And that thought is heartbreaking.’
Mr Smith’s death came just months after the casualty department five minutes from his home had closed.
But it was not just the drive to Lincoln that caused delays – it took 37 minutes from Mrs Smith’s 999 call until an ambulance arrived.
As The Mail on Sunday revealed earlier this month, the average time for 999 patients in Newark to get to A&E has been steadily lengthening since the downgrading and eventual closure of the A&E. It currently stands at almost two hours.
The Smith family had spent a happy Christmas together and had just planned a New Year’s Eve meal when David was taken ill.
‘He sat down on the sofa and said, “I’ve got this terrible pain”,’ Mrs Smith remembers. ‘Initially I thought it might be indigestion but he became more breathless and clammy, so I called 999.’
YOUR A&E HORROR STORIES
HOLLY WATERS, Aged seven months, Stafford
Holly was found unconscious in her cot at home, two miles from Stafford Hospital. But its A&E has been closed at night, so she had to be taken 22 miles to Stoke. She died on arrival, 49 minutes after the 999 call. Her father Sean said: ‘If she had gone to Stafford, she might still be here today.’ NHS chiefs said that was impossible to verify.
HARRY MORGAN, Aged nine months, Hartlepool
Harry ‘turned purple and stopped breathing for 15 seconds’, so his dad Gareth took him to the local A&E, which had been downgraded to an urgent care centre. He was told he needed an appointment, so had to drive to an A&E 40 minutes away instead. He said: ‘I don’t know how they can turn a baby away.’
JACK SOWERBY, Aged three, Hartlepool
After being seen for breathing problems, tiny Jack was sent home with painkillers from the local urgent care centre, which replaced the A&E. But his condition worsened and hours later he had to make the half-hour trip to casualty, where doctors found that his right lung had collapsed and he had fluid in both lungs.
JOE SALKELD, Aged 70, Bishop Auckland
Heart patient Joe used to live 500 yards from an A&E, but it closed. So when his pulse shot up, he was driven half an hour to Darlington. There, he had to wait three hours before being seen. ‘Staff were overwhelmed. A field hospital in Afghanistan would be better,’ he said. The NHS Trust said A&Es tend to be busy at weekends.
ROBERT WRIGHT, Aged 66, Haywards Heath
Mr Wright developed a stomach illness that causes painful lumps in the intestinal wall which can burst – possibly fatally – so time is of the essence. His local A&E is ten minutes away, but it no longer offers treatment for digestive problems. He was driven 45 minutes to Brighton, 18 miles away.
KATHLEEN LOFTUS, Aged 90, Newark
An ambulance took 90 minutes to get to her after she fell and broke her hip in Newark last Sunday. Then she had to endure a painful 17-mile trip to Grantham, as her local A&E has closed.
Mrs Smith described his symptoms to the operator, who said she believed it was a heart attack.
Government rules dictate that ambulances must respond to 75 per cent of all Category A calls – the most serious – within eight minutes. Suspected heart attacks are automatically Category A, as quick intervention can prove life-saving.
But 12 minutes later, with David’s condition worsening and no ambulance in sight, Mrs Smith called again, to be told: ‘They’re on their way.’ ‘I said, “Please tell them to hurry up”,’ she recalls. ‘But she said – and I’ll always remember this – “Well, they’re very busy and they’ve got a long way to come.”
‘A paramedic turned up in a rapid response car. He came in, took one look at David and went outside to make a call. I heard him say the word “priority”. That suggests they weren’t treating it as one from the start.’
It took that first paramedic 25 minutes to reach the scene, according to East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS). The ambulance took another 12 minutes, but EMAS cannot explain the delay, blaming ‘a combination of factors’.
Paramedics told Mrs Smith she could not ride in the ambulance with her husband and suggested she meet them at the hospital – in Lincoln. ‘I said, “Lincoln?!”I couldn’t believe it. The hospital, on a good day, is about 45 minutes away. They said they couldn’t treat heart attacks at Newark. I said, “For God’s sake, What sort of hospital is it?”
Mrs Smith arrived at Lincoln County Hospital nearly an hour later. She was told the ambulance had still not turned up. But EMAS has said he was there – the journey having taken the ambulance 33 minutes.
Half an hour later, Mrs Smith was given the bad news. She was told the paramedics had kept him alive until they’d got to the hospital.
She said: ‘They didn’t say how long it had taken and there were so many questions I didn’t ask because I was so stunned. I was so gobsmacked.
‘The consultant said there was a little blood clot which had entered the main artery. My daughter asked if he’d got there sooner, would it have made a difference? He said no, of course. But I can’t help but think it would have.
‘They could have had time to do exploratory work, he could have been given drugs to dissolve clots. They could have put a catheter in to widen the artery. They always say the first hour is the most important for heart attacks. I’ve been beating myself up ever since.’
Lincoln County Hospital declined to comment, while EMAS chief executive Phil Milligan said: ‘We sent the nearest available paramedic and he was en route within a minute. Our clinicians were on scene for over half an hour working to stabilise Mr Smith’s condition.
‘He needed emergency specialist surgery, which is provided at Lincoln. We alerted the hospital so they could prepare for our arrival, which happened 33 minutes later.
‘EMAS ensured that Mr Smith had the best chance of survival by taking him to Lincoln, where specialist treatment could be provided.’
Who are the real bigots? Christian couple reveal how they have suffered a two-year campaign of death threats and abuse for refusing to let two gay men share a room in their B&B
Susanne and Mike Wilkinson’s ‘Swiss B&B’ is ablaze with flowers, immaculately maintained and tucked away at the top of a single-track lane in the ridiculously pretty village of Cookham, near Maidenhead, Berkshire.
The house, called Uf Dorf, named after a village in Susanne’s native Switzerland, has sweeping gardens leading down through a field to the River Thames, a lovely outdoor swimming pool, a vine-covered terrace for breakfast (weather permitting) plus two bright and very comfortable double rooms for £75-a-night, and one single, all en-suite.
Indeed, had Michael Black, 63, and John Morgan, 58, been allowed to check into the large downstairs double on Friday, March 19, 2010, they would doubtless have loved its bright airiness, the triptych of photos of the Swiss Alps above the lovely big double bed, the flat screen TV, the double doors opening on to the garden, the extensive and very generous tea and coffee-making facilities and the acres of clean linen and fresh towels.
Christian B&B couple Susanne and Michael Wilkinson who were at court earlier this week because they wouldn’t let a gay couple stay in a double bed in their B&B
But they never made it past the kitchen or the extract from Jeremiah (chapter 16, verse 19) stuck firmly to the fridge.
Because Susanne, 56, and Mike 58, are devout Christians and only allow married heterosexual couples to book into their double rooms. And Michael Black and John Morgan, who hail from Cambridgeshire and have been together for nearly ten years, are gay.
‘I’d had a booking from a Mr Black for the Zurich room — a nice big double with an en-suite,’ explains Susanne. ‘And, naturally, I assumed it was for Mr and Mrs Black. But as I helped them manoeuvre their car into the drive, I realised they were two men and I thought: “Oh dear, this isn’t a situation I can go along with.”
So after inviting them into the kitchen (‘It felt rude to have this conversation outside’), and despite her website promising ‘a very warm welcome to all visitors’, Susanne, a former airhostess and mother of four, told them politely and firmly that she was very sorry but they’d have to leave.
‘I said that because of my convictions, I could not go along with two men in the big double bed and I refunded their £30 deposit.’
Messrs Black (an exams consultant) and Morgan (an IT consultant and Lib Dem councillor) were appalled.
‘They said they couldn’t believe this sort of discrimination was happening in this day and age and that there would be consequences,’ recalls Susanne. ‘They said it was surely illegal in a hotel.
‘But I said: “This isn’t a hotel, this is my private home,” and that I’d have offered for them to stay in separate rooms if I had any available, but they were all booked.
‘So they left. They were polite, but shocked. And that was that.’
Or rather, it was the beginning of two-and-a-half years of hate mail, arson and death threats, obscene emails, filthy texts, bogus TripAdvisor and Google reviews, cancelled bookings — none of which, of course, was posted or encouraged by Mr Black or his partner — and spiralling legal fees.
Meanwhile the wheels of justice ground on, all culminating in a court hearing this week at Reading County Court. The judgment is deferred for a couple of weeks.
Michael and John’s claim (funded by Liberty) was made under the new Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 and argued that it was unlawful for a person providing services to the public to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Susanne and Mike, who are funded by the Christian Institute, claim that the regulations shouldn’t apply to B&Bs in the same way as they do to hotels and insist the law has been interpreted badly.
‘We are not homophobic,’ says Mike, who traded 30 years as a financial director in the City to become leader of a local non-denominational church in Marlow eight years ago.
‘We would happily have all our rooms filled with gay folk on a single occupancy basis. But not sharing a double bed because, for us, sex when you’re unmarried is a sin before God.’
The backlash started a couple of hours after Michael and John reversed out of the Wilkinsons’ drive.
‘The lady who ran the Cookham.com website telephoned to say she was removing us from the website for bringing shame on Cookham,’ says Susanne.
‘Then there were so many hits on our website that the server nearly went down,’ says Mike. ‘And then the phone calls and emails started.’ Because the following day, the BBC took up the story.
‘We were bombarded,’ says Mike. ‘I’m sure they didn’t plan for all this to happen, but there were hundreds of emails an hour from all over the world, our phones were ringing day and night. Texts were coming in all hours. Most were just obscene.
‘They were very sexually explicit — I wouldn’t really like to tell you what was in them,’ says Susanne.
And then the bogus TripAdvisor and Google reviews started, most of the Wilkinsons’ bookings were cancelled and death threats began.
‘They talked about “coming to get us”. One was hand-delivered and handwritten in capitals and said ‘I am coming to burn your house down” and then lots of filthy words about what they thought of us,’ says Mike.
‘It was very scary. And we’ve guests as well as children living here. People started cancelling the bookings. And that’s when we called the police.’
Who — strangely you may think — despite trawling through thousands upon thousands of emails, texts and letters, were unable to track a single sender. ‘They were all from anonymous sources. It’s so cowardly, isn’t it?
But what about the discrimination law that came into force just after they started offering B&B? ‘To be honest, we weren’t aware of it and we were pretty shocked when we did hear about it — that you couldn’t determine who could stay in your own home,’ says Mike.
‘You can say no children and no pets, but I’m not allowed to say I don’t want homosexual couples to share a bed under my roof. Just as we would never knowingly allow an unmarried heterosexual couple stay in the same room in our home.’
Indeed they’ve turned away a heterosexual couple wanting a room for just a few hours. ‘It was clear they weren’t married,’ says Susanne, appalled.
The couple even banned a family member from sharing a room with her boyfriend. ‘That caused a bit of a scene. But you have to be consistent and honest.’
Back in Berkshire, how have things been for the Wilkinsons’ four children, aged 17 to 29? ‘I think it’s not been easy for them,’ says Mike, quietly. ‘All of them are supportive and all of them have chosen to become Christians — our older boy is in training to become an Anglican priest. But even if they understand and agree with us, most of their friends don’t and our daughter at university got all kinds of grief.
‘It’s been very upsetting. At least TripAdvisor has removed all the phoney reviews, though Google have done nothing — even though I’ve written to them over 20 times. There’s stuff on there that’s disgusting and illegal — one says everybody should come and smash the house up.’
What a dreadful mess. One can only imagine the nightmare through which the Wilkinsons have lived over the last few years.
But surely, whatever the court determines in the next couple of weeks, their ‘crime’ — sticking fervently to their admittedly old-fashioned views within their own home — cannot be deserving of the vicious torrent of bile, obscenity, hatred, bullying and death threats that nearly swept them away.
British backflip: OK (sometimes) to diss homosexuals on Twitter
Internet trolls who post one-off offensive messages may escape criminal charges, the country’s chief prosecutor announced yesterday.
Keir Starmer said court action would be taken only where there was a ‘sustained campaign of harassment’ or a direct threat, as he stressed the need to protect free speech.
The Director of Public Prosecutions made his comments as he announced that a semi-professional footballer who posted a homophobic tweet about Olympic diver Tom Daley would not face criminal charges. He said the comments were not so ‘grossly offensive’ that they should lead to a prosecution.
Daniel Thomas sent the message about Daley, 18, and diving partner Peter Waterfield, 31, after the pair missed out on a medal on July 30.
Thomas, who plays for Welsh side Port Talbot Town, was arrested after the tweet spread around the internet. It falsely suggested that Daley and Waterfield were in a gay relationship and drew a link between homosexuality and HIV.
Under the 2003 Communications Act, it is an offence to send messages online that are grossly offensive.
Mr Starmer accepted Thomas’s tweet was ‘homophobic’ but said it had been a misguided attempt at humour.
The message was also not intended to go beyond his Twitter followers, who were mainly friends and family. And he said the message was quickly taken down and the footballer had apologised.
Chief Constable Andy Trotter, of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said the new guidance would help police to focus on the most serious online abuse.