Britons must be wondering whether their country is really prepared
to care for its elderly as its population begins to age rapidly. Two scandals have
horrified the public in the past week.
In the first, a survey of hospitals found that elderly patients were sometimes
so badly neglected that doctors had to prescribe drinking water to ensure that patients
had enough to drink. Inspectors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the National Health Services watchdog reported
in some cases they were so dehydrated that they could not even call for help.
Whilst the reports document
many examples of people being treated with respect and given personalised, attentive
care, some tell a bleak story of people not being helped to eat and drink, with
their care needs not assessed and their dignity not respected.
Of the first 12 hospitals investigated, 3 did not meet minimum standards
of care. The CQC will release reports
on all of the 100 hospitals in the NHS in England.
But that was just an appetizer for revelations from a BBC undercover
program about life in Winterbourne View, a private hospital for people with learning disabilities
and autism. Four carers were arrested and later released on bail. The film crew
captured scenes in which patients were kicked, pinned down, slapped, dragged into showers while fully clothed, taunted and teased.
Some observers called it “torture”.
"This is the worst
kind of institutional care,” an expert on care for the disabled told the BBC. “It
is the kind of thing that was prevalent at the end of the 60s and that led Britain
to gradually close the large, long-stay institutions."
The watchdog seems to have been sleeping. The CQC had visited the facility several times but failed to respond to three
complaints from a whistleblower. The government has announced that it will inspect
all 150 residential care homes to assess the scale of the abuse.
Columnist Cristine Odone wrote in the London Telegraph:
“The underlying assumption
that only the healthy should live spreads to every corner of life: euthanasia enthusiasts
campaign for the right to ‘help’ someone who is severely disabled take their life;
and “care homes” are too often run
by Caligula types who, as Panorama showed,
have no compunction about torturing their charges with punches, slaps, and goadings.”
With stories like this on the front page of newspapers, is it any wonder if some people would rather commit suicide than commit themselves to the care of the National Health System?