Letter: Hospitals that help patients to face death

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Sir: As someone who has worked for 19 years in the NHS, initially as a nurse and more recently as a doctor, I read John Hoyland's article about the death of his stepfather with a growing feeling of pain, sadness and shame.

A knee-jerk reaction of many in the profession will be to deny the accusations or to blame underfunding, shortage of staff or current management techniques. Many will point to the fact that the introduction of the speciality of geriatrics was aimed to tackle the problems of poor communication that may result from the piecemeal treatment of multi-system diseases so common in the elderly, and argue for an increase in resources dedicated to this cinderella branch of the health service.

Others will, rightly, highlight the role of the GP in co-ordinating care of the individual and suggest greater reduction in the role of hospitals. These points have been made forcefully within the medical and nursing professions for many years. However, a walk through the accident and emergency departments, corridors and wards of most of our hospitals will show that, at the level of the individual patient, the system frequently fails to deliver a humane and efficient service. There is a dire need for "care" as well as "cure" to be made a priority in the NHS.


Hexham, Northumberland