TV dishes dirt on patient care

Date published: 12 April 2011

Hospital chiefs have apologised for “unacceptable staff behaviour” towards patients revealed in a hard-hitting TV documentary last night.

But they slammed claims on Channel 4’s Dispatches that patient care was being compromised to meet targets as unfounded and unsubstantiated.

Reporters posing as a porter and a trust volunteer secretly filmed patient care and hospital life including conversations with and between members of staff mainly at North Manchester General 13 December and 4 March.

Scenes appeared to show one staff member describing an elderly patient as t**t, staff swearing loudly near patients, elderly patients at North Manchester Hospital accusing one staff member of bullying, operating theatres without enough staff, and staff claiming that a patient had died because they were moved between wards too quickly.

The undercover reporters said they had witnessed caring staff, but the programme branded the Pennine Acute Trust, which runs the hospitals in Rochdale, North Manchester, Oldham and Bury, as “struggling to care for patients”.

A trust spokesman said they had not seen the footage before it aired but denied the programme’s claims and have taken legal advice “to protect the interests of its patients and staff”.

The trust has also invited independent watchdog the Care Quality Commission to review its standards of care.

John Saxby, trust chief executive, said: “We take all issues of patient safety and patient care extremely seriously.

“There were examples of unacceptable behaviour and what came across to be an uncaring and unsympathetic attitude towards some patients by some of our staff which made for uncomfortable viewing.

“We all need to learn lessons from this. Making comments and derogatory remarks about patients, and the use of inappropriate language, is clearly unacceptable, even if it was filmed covertly.

“We apologise for this unacceptable behaviour.”

Mr Saxby said they would look into the relentless pressures on patients, staff and relatives in our A&E and Medical Assessment Unit departments, and tackle issues such as ‘bed blocking’, where patients stay in hospital despite being well enough to leave.

He said: “We do not accept the unfounded, unsubstantiated and very serious allegation about compromising patient care to meet targets. We utterly reject such an allegation.”

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