Letter: `Starved' patients

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The Independent Culture
Sir: As a private nursing agency, working hard to help make up some of the shortfall in NHS nurse numbers, (currently 15,000 registered nurse vacancies in England alone), we regularly see behind the screens in NHS hospitals.

The recent allegations of elderly patients left without proper nourishment come as no surprise ("Charity wants inquiry into `starving of elderly' ", 7 December). Not that hospital staff are callously or deliberately withdrawing food from patients, but sheer pressure of work and too few NHS nurses means that often no one is available to sit with patients and help them to eat when they cannot feed themselves. Commonly an untouched plate will be removed on the assumption that the patient wasn't hungry, when in fact the patient simply was too disabled or too infirm to reach the plate unaided.

The real criminality here is the persistent failure of the powers-that- be to provide enough nursing resource, whether from the internal bank or from good private agencies, to ensure that time can be spent with patients instead of rushing by.

ROBERT MURGATROYD

Director of Marketing

Thornbury Nursing Services

Bristol

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