Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The NHS killed my mother: MP Nigel Evans reveals how a routine operation ended in horror

The last, harrowing moments of my mother's life will live for ever in the collective memory of my family. An 86-year-old lady of infinite grace and dignity, she had the most agonising of deaths.

Lying bewildered and distressed in an NHS hospital bed, her body racked with pain, she kept desperately grabbing at the air with her hands as if she was drowning, while all the time being violently ill.

'It was torture, worse than a horror film. We felt so helpless,' says my sister, Louise, who witnessed the tragic scene. But it should never have been like this. My dear mother should have been able to depart this earth in serenity and peace, not forced to go through such a traumatic experience.

The reasons for her ordeal can, I believe, be found in a mixture of neglect, incompetence and indifference shown by the NHS.

For my mother died of the notorious superbug Clostridium difficile, known as C.diff, which she must have contracted while undergoing hospital treatment in Swansea. If she had been cared for properly, if the ward had been cleaner or greater urgency had been shown in handling her case, then this tragedy might never have happened.

The NHS is often a saviour, but it can also be a killer. What happened to my mother is all too common in the health service. There were 8,324 deaths from C.diff in 2007, with most of the victims elderly people.

That statistic is too high for a 21stcentury healthcare system in an advanced industrialised country. Moreover, an estimated 59,000 people in this country are disabled or die because of poor hygiene or care in our hospitals.

Even the essentials, such as providing patients with sufficient fluids or cleaning bathrooms properly, are neglected. That is why I am campaigning for drastic improvements in the basics of healthcare in the NHS, so deaths from C.diff and other superbugs can be eliminated.

I have demanded an investigation into the circumstances surrounding my mother's death at the Singleton Hospital in Swansea, but I also want the lessons of this episode to be learned much more widely, so that Britain has a health service that meets the needs of its users, not one that carries the risk of killing them.

My mother's case encapsulates the best and worst of the NHS. On one hand, she had the highest quality treatment from a leading surgeon after she was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus. On the other, when she returned to hospital for a routine operation - unconnected with the cancer - she received nothing like the same expert, attentive care.

That is almost certainly why she contracted C.diff and why medical staff were too slow in responding to symptoms. It seems as if there is a deep contradiction within the NHS, pulling the service in two directions.

We have phenomenal advances in drugs, medical technology and surgery, which can conquer-disease and prolong life in a way that would have been revolutionary only two decades ago. Yet, at the same time, we have abandoned the most basic standards of hygiene and care.

My mother deserved better from the NHS. Determined, kind and diligent, she was a pillar of strength, not just to my family but to the community in her area of Swansea, where she and my late father ran a newsagent's shop.

Full article can be read on Daily Mail