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TODAY the Sunday Mirror exposes the full, shocking details of the lack of care given to frightened and dying patients in an NHS hospital.

These exclusive extracts are from a diary kept by nurse Margaret Haywood, 54, while she was working at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton, on wards in which many of the patients were elderly - and some dying.

Miss Haywood, a nurse for 20 years, used the record as part of an expose of the shocking conditions featured in a TV documentary.



I'VE just finished a shift on the Stewart section of Peel and Stewart Ward. When I arrived I noticed the ward was pretty untidy. The bed lockers and tables were littered and there were tissues, toilet paper and newspapers on the floor. It was sticky in places. There was one cleaner about who didn't seem to be doing very much. Some of the bed linen was dirty, so I went around and tried to change that. The staff were overworked. There was only me and a senior staff nurse for 11 patients. Lots of work to be done with many incontinent patients, several drips and catheters to see to. There were no care plans which describe the patient's needs. There was no "named nurse" responsible for each patient. Some of them hadn't had their blood pressure taken because there was no time. We just had to prioritise and do what we could.



I'M worn out. I've never worked so hard in my life. In one bed there was a lady who had cancer of the liver and seemed to be in a lot of pain. I checked her notes and discovered that she should be getting a powerful painkiller every four hours. When I looked she had some at 1.30pm, but before that she'd not had it since 6am - which is a long time to leave someone in pain. The nursing standards I saw today were despicable. It made me feel ashamed of my profession.



JUST myself and a male charge nurse on duty today. The ward was very untidy again. There were 12 patients, two were very poorly. The charge nurse kept disappearing and when he was on there spent most of his time sitting at the nursing station. Three or four times I asked him for help with moving patients in their beds and he did it grudgingly. He said he had a problem with his shoulder. There was a lady in bed two called Jessie, who is 86 and has been in for a few weeks with lung cancer. She was quite poorly and needed a lot of encouragement to eat or drink. She was on an IV drip for fluids.

What upset me was that her mouth was dry and sore. She had ulcers on her tongue and her lips were dry and cracked which suggested she hadn't had any mouth care for some time. The corner of her mouth started bleeding. I cleaned her tongue with some sponge and water and put vaseline on her lips and she looked a lot better.

Her nightie had dried food on it so I changed her clothes and gave her a wash, combed her hair and changed her bed. She said "thank you". Older people are from a culture where they don't complain which makes it even more important to make sure they're all right.


132005FIRST shift back on Peel and Stewart ward today after a fortnight's break and I can honestly say it's the worst place I've ever worked in my life. There were no care plans, no named nurses. Many of the patients were sitting in their beds most of the day in awful theatre gowns. They had no dignity, no self-respect and no freedom of choice. Some who needed help to eat did not get it. I arrived at 7am and had to manage the ward with a student and an agency nurse who's new.

Most of the patients were highly dependent. I asked the agency nurse to do the drugs round while the student and I did all the washing, bed-changing and feeding. The agency nurse should have done the drugs round in an hour but was still giving out breakfast drugs at lunchtime. One lady called Ivy was quite poorly and it looked like nobody had given her a drink. Her mouth was dry and sore. I gave her a beaker of water and she swigged it back as if she hadn't had a drink for months. I started a fluid chart to keep account of how much she was drinking, and I hope it is continued after I've gone. She told me she wanted me to "let her go". I said: "Where do you want to go to Ivy?" and she said: "Heaven." I held her hand and helped her have a drink. I helped her wash as well and changed her bed, sat her up a little bit, combed her hair. It was really upsetting.



I WORKED a double shift today. The first was from 7.15am to 2pm on Peel. There were two staff nurses, two healthcare assistants and two student nurses. It felt unfair when there were far fewer staff working on Stewart. One asked me why I was washing patients as staff nurses don't do that on Peel normally. But as a result of me helping we had time to give a patient a bath and put her hair in rollers - a rare treat.

I noticed all the patients were sharing the same bowls when they were having a wash which could spread infection. I suggested to one of the nurses each patient have their own bowl. He did not react. My second shift was on Stewart from 5pm to 9.30pm. There were three nurses - me, a staff nurse and a student nurse. Afterwards, I was worn out. There is no way you can work all those hours and give your best to the patient. I was on my feet all day. There are quite a few nurses who do these double shifts. I don't know how they do it.



TODAY I was told there was a new manager but my first impression was that nothing had changed. There were new medical records cards on ends of beds but there was nothing much written in them. One of the ladies who'd had a stroke had been given a fluid chart but nothing had been filled in. There was another elderly lady who'd been in the ward for three days and nobody had bothered ordering her medication until this morning. I've been in hospitals where the care was outstanding and the difference is they've got good managers.



ON Stewart ward. It was very busy with people who were incontinent and beds which needed changing. One lady was on a blood transfusion, six on IV drips which need a lot of care, and in total we had 12 patients. Yet on Peel ward some nurses were sitting about chatting and one was even eating a pasty. Seeing this kind of care makes me angry. It makes me feel ashamed of my profession It needs to be sorted urgently.


I'M going for what could be my last shift today so I'm going to see if I can pin down the ward manager and ask her what plan she's got and tell her about the bad practices. It turns out she is well aware of them and has six months to put them right. However, she is a couple of months in and I would have expected more improvements. The fact the hospital has appointed her and she is aware of the problems is positive, but the changes are taking too long. We've got patients suffering - that should take priority.

-Agency nurse Margaret's revelations are featured in BBC documentary Undercover Nurse


Whistle-blower.. nurse Margaret was horrified at the lack of care on the wards at her hospital; Frail Ivy wasn't even given water to drink; Exposed... Royal Sussex County Hospital
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 24, 2005
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