Called in at Welshpool Hospital to visit Cllr Ann Holloway today. She has fallen and lost mobility. Thankfully, she was looking was looking near back to normal - which can sometimes be thoroughly irascible. Miss Holloway had been a great supporter of mine, and for many years nothing has been too much trouble for her. She probably had as many visitors today as Tescos down the road. Anyway, my point is that there is a very good atmosphere at Welshpool Hospital. While I'm not competent to judge about standard of specialist care, I'd be surprised if the basic care was not of a very high standard. But it is not always so elsewhere.
Earlier this week we read of the utterly dreadful cases of poor care at hospitals in Worcestershire. Compensation has been paid to 38 families in acknowledgement of poor care (though legal liability has not been accepted) over a period of 38 years. And earlier this year we learned of the terrible events that happened at Winterbourne View Hospital, And I've learned of other examples since Ann Clwyd MP raised the issue of elderly care in a highly emotional way following personal experience a few weeks ago. Of course, most care in our hospitals is very good, but in my opinion the greatest challenge facing Jeremy Hunt, Sec. of State for Health is raising the bar in how we look after elderly people.
There are so many aspects to this issue. The announcement we're expecting in the Mid Term Review about a cap on care home fees would be good but incidental to delivery of basic care. We need a system of comprehensive unannounced inspection that puts a stop to the examples of appalling care that drags the reputation of the care and hospital services down. What good is conscience-salving £10,000 compensation to the families. We need people who abuse the elderly to be imprisoned - and a whole new culture hammered into our care system.
Other matters flow from all this. How on earth can anyone suggest legalising assisted suicide when this sort of abuse happens - when very vulnerable people are treated as non-human. Where would it lead. And what about the future of the Liverpool Care Pathway, which 'should' be a way of easing the discomfort of people in their last days. How can we have trust in the integrity of the LCP while examples like the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch and Winterbourne keep on happening. Because this is such a toxic and important issue, I have secured a 90 minute debate in the House of Commons on 8th Jan, our second day back, to debate it. I hope lots of MPs will participate. We cannot leave discussion about these important issues to the sensationalist front pages of national newspapers. How we look after those who can no longer look after themselves is a measure of how civilised we are - and at present we are not coming up to the mark.