NHS trust chairman dismissed over abuse of elderly

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The Independent Online

Alan Milburn yesterday sacked the chairman of an NHS trust after a report revealed appalling treatment of elderly patients.

Mary Styth was dismissed after an independent inquiry supported allegations that a patient at a Cumbrian hospital was tied onto a commode and others were force fed while on the toilet. The inquiry's report made "very disturbing reading," said the Secretary of State for Health. "It is wholly unacceptable that any patient is treated in this manner."

The investigation into North Lakeland Healthcare NHS Trust's Kielder House for elderly psychiatric patients at Garlands Hospital, Carlisle, followed allegations by student nurses in December 1998 that patients were being treated unacceptably.

The report also substantiated allegations that up to 30 elderly residents suffering from dementia were beaten. Their normal diet was withheld, inadequate clothing and blankets provided, and an irregular supply of medication offered, the inquiry found.

The allegations of abuse first surfaced in 1996 and an internal investigation substantiated them, but no one was disciplined. The external review panel said this was further evidence of management shortcomings and that an "unacceptable culture of care" had existed at the home.

A joint statement issued on behalf of North Lakeland Healthcare NHS Trust and North Cumbria Health Authority apologised for the treatment of people on the ward.Several of the ward's former staff, who continue to work within the NHS, are now expected to be disciplined.