Jeremy Hunt 'disgusted and appalled' by reports of neglect at hospital where elderly man died of starvation

Reports claim some patients treated by the Worcestershire Acute NHS Hospital Trust were left thirsty with drinks left out of reach while others were left to sit in their own excrement

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The Independent Online

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said he is 'disgusted and appalled' by reports of neglect at a hospital in Worcestershire where a man died of starvation.

Some patients treated by the Worcestershire Acute NHS Hospital Trust were left thirsty with drinks out of reach while others were left to sit in their own excrement.

According to reports in The Sunday Telegraph in one instance an 84-year-old man starved to death at Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, in June 2009.

The newspaper reports that the health trust responsible for the hospital is writing to 38 families to admit its failings in each individual case.

The mistreatment of patients was exposed following legal action by the families involved, The Telegraph reports.

In a statement, the trust issued an apology over its "shortcomings".

Reports claim that the Hospital Trust is to pay out a total of £410,000 in compensation.

In a statement today, Jeremy Hunt said: I am disgusted and appalled to read these accounts of what patients and their relatives went through.

"These are examples of the sort of 'care' that should simply not happen in the NHS and there is no excuse for them.

"We will be keeping a careful eye on this situation, and will take further action if necessary."

Lawyers for the families started legal action against the trust 15 months ago, after failings in basic day-to-day care were highlighted in a report by health watchdog the Care and Quality Commission (CQC).

Health bosses at the trust agreed in November to write to each of the families apologising for lapses in care, but have not admitted legal liability.

Emma Jones, a human rights lawyer with Leigh Day & Co which brought the legal action, said: "The failings we uncovered were appalling.

"Vulnerable and elderly patients were left starving and thirsty, with drinks left out of reach, buzzers ignored and people not being taken to the toilet and instead left to sit in their own faeces by the very people meant to be caring for them.

"There have been financial settlements, but what the families have always wanted all along is an apology, some have been waiting years.

"The trust has agreed to send out those letters of apology and they are expected to be sent out in January."

Ms Jones said the trust "had engaged" with lawyers throughout the process, and the settlements reflected a willingness to "draw a line" under the matter.

In a statement, the trust accepted "care fell below the requisite standard" but added "significant" improvements had since been made to levels of patient care.

The incidents reportedly all took place between 2002 and 2011, with 35 cases brought against the Alexandra Hospital and three against the Worcestershire Royal Hospital, Worcester.

Worcestershire Acute Hospital Trust said in a statement: "While the trust has accepted that certain aspects of the care afforded to some patients fell below the standard that they were entitled to expect, all of the cases cited are several years old, in many incidences, more than a decade old.

"This trust now has the sixth best standard hospital mortality index (SHMI) in the Midlands and East Strategic Health area based on 2012/13 figures which put the figure at 97 - which is below the national average.

"A number of very serious allegations made by the families of deceased patients are not borne out by the medical records.

"Nevertheless, the trust accepts that, the care afforded to some patients, some years ago - between 2002 and 2009 - fell below the requisite standard and has apologised for the shortcomings.

"Following a CQC inspection in early 2011, and as a consequence of rigorous clinical governance within the trust, significant changes have been made to ensure patient care is excellent which is resulting in the trust currently producing a SHMI below the national average.

"Moreover, the CQC inspection in September 2011 confirmed the trust met every CQC standard and the focus now is to ensure that those high standards are maintained and built upon.

"The trust is committed to delivering the very best care to its patients and will continue to strive for excellence."