Nurses working at shamed Stafford Hospital are facing increased criticism and abuse from patients and relatives in the wake of the damning Healthcare Commission report, it has emerged.
Heather Gough, a senior A&E nurse practitioner, said nurses were suffering a backlash of aggression and criticism after the inquiry revealed appalling standards of care and staff shortages causing at least 400 unnecessary deaths.
“The report appears to have licensed people to be rude to staff,” said Ms Gough.
Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust’s director of nursing Helen Moss confirmed to the Nursing Standard that there had been a slight increase in verbal abuse against staff.
But campaigner Julie Bailey, who set up Cure the NHS group to unearth problems at the trust after her mother Isabella Bailey died at Stafford Hospital, said it was right that patients should be more critical on staff after a catalogue of failings for years.
“The nurses at that hospital needed a wake-up call,” said Ms Bailey.
“Standards I saw during the eight weeks my mother was at Stafford Hospital shouldn’t have been accepted. Nurses may have been under pressure, but day in, day out, they were walking passed patients desperate for food and water, looking them in the eye and ignoring them with no word of apology.
“They lost all sense of basic needs and it became acceptable.”
“If patients and relatives now feel able to demand the right treatment and criticise problems, then good for them.”
Last night Ms Bailey met Professor Sir George Alberti, a national clinical director carrying out an independent review into A&E at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.
The silence of hospital staff over failures, including receptionists carrying out initial checks on patients in A&E and patients so thirsty they drank water out of vases, has rankled both MPs and residents.
Health Secretary Alan Johnson said he was amazed that nurses and doctors at Stafford Hospital failed to blow the whistle on poor practice.
While David Kidney, Labour MP for Stafford, said: ‘All the time there were no whistle blowers, there was no strike action by staff and there was no calling in of royal colleges or other outside representatives.”
Despite no vocal protests, there were 515 concerns raised logged by staff about care on three wards alone between April 2005 and August 2008.
Staffordshire County Council has announced it plans to monitor future performance at the Trust and will meet tomorrow to decide how councillors can play a part in improving services and question hospital managers in public.
Coun Jim Muir, chairman of Staffordshire Health Scrutiny Committee, said: “Local authorities have an important role to perform in overseeing the work of the NHS in their area. Our task tomorrowis to plan a way in which we can work with the trust to ensure that it improves levels of patient care and that improvements are maintained.
“This is not an inquiry and will not apportion blame. The intention is to decide on the contribution that the county council and the three district authorities can play in improving services.”
Coroners’ records on patients who died at Stafford Hospital are also to be opened to help families seeking answers about the care of their loved ones.