MP's husband died like 'battery hen' because nurses don't care

Ann Clwyd shares story of her husband's death as nursing chief demands more compassion

LAST UPDATED AT 10:45 ON Wed 5 Dec 2012

A SENIOR Labour MP claims her sick husband died in hospital "like a battery hen", inflaming the debate about the lack of compassion nurses sometimes show to patients in hospitals and care homes.

Ann Clwyd broke down in a radio interview describing the "coldness, resentment, indifference and even contempt" of NHS nurses treating her late husband, Owen Roberts, in a Cardiff hospital.

The 73-year-old, who had multiple sclerosis, was "squashed against the side of his bed" and his lips were "dry and cold" because a fan had been turned on for a patient in an adjacent bed, an emotional Clwyd told Radio 4's World at One yesterday. Moments before he died in the four-bed ward someone shouted out "anybody for breakfast?"

"I really do feel he died from people who didn't care," said the 75-year-old MP.

Her comments follow yesterday's demand by Jane Cummings, England's chief nursing officer, that nurses be formally rated on their caring abilities. She wants them to concentrate on the 'six Cs' – compassion, care, competence, communication, commitment and courage.

The new strategy has been triggered by a series of reports outlining concerns over poor care in the health service, including failures to provide clean and comfortable surroundings for patients and help with eating and drinking, says The Guardian. Last week, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned that cruelty and neglect had become normal in some hospitals and care homes.

Responding to Cummings's strategy, a London nurse, Jason Lightoller, told the BBC today that compassion cannot be taught: "You either have it or you don't," he said. "There are many nurses who bring compassion to the job, but then over the years so much pressure is put on them that they get burnt out and it gets lost."

Ruth Walker, executive nurse director at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff where Ann Clwyd's husband died, has invited the MP to meet hospital officials so that a "full and formal investigation" can take place, The Daily Telegraph reports. · 

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'demand by England's chief nursing officer, that nurses be formally rated on their caring abilities' Oh, good lord, spare us such folk

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