GPs Kill Retail but Hospitals Kill Wholesale

Dr Vernon Coleman

Hospitals are terrible places. People die in them. You should go to hospital only as a last resort. And you should escape the minute you can.

As a doctor, I am ashamed, saddened, and embarrassed to have to tell you this but hospital patients are routinely neglected, humiliated and left in pain. Thousands of patients have died as a result of poor treatment. One independent inquiry documented cases where patients had been left unwashed for up to a month and left without food, drink, and medical treatment. The conclusion was that managers had been ‘preoccupied with cost-cutting, targets and processes’ and had lost sight of their basic responsibilities. Astonishingly, none of the managers responsible was taken to court. Nor were any of the doctors and nurses punished.

I have little doubt that in all the hospitals where patients have been dying unnecessarily the staff (including doctors and nurses) managed to convince themselves that they were providing patients with excellent service.

And, equally, I have no doubt that an enormous number of patients relatives, and hospital visitors must have ignored all these awful things and believed that the hospitals concerned were doing a wonderful job.

It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to hear that the managers responsible for all this pain, agony, and death, have thick files of letters from patients and relatives thanking them for the excellent care.

The truth is that neither patients nor relatives know precisely what to expect from hospitals. Walk into a hospital and you will find demented patients in awful pain. You will find patients with terrible bedsores (the bedsore is a classic sign of bad nursing). You will find patients who are starving to death or dying of dehydration because the staff can’t be bothered to feed them or give them fluids. You will see patients so dehydrated that their lips are bleeding and sore and, when gently pinched, their dried-out skin stays where you’ve put it. You will see patients dumped in a chair, sitting in urine-soaked incontinence pads which have clearly not been changed for hours. You will see obvious signs of malnutrition. These aren’t patients in Third World countries. They aren’t patients in badly run care homes. They are patients in major hospitals. I know it is true because I have seen it time and time again.

Patients awaiting surgery are sent home because the hospital has run out of money and can’t afford the sutures and other surgical equipment needed to operate on them. An 83-year-old woman with dementia was sent home from hospital in the middle of the night without her family being informed. The next day she was found dead, alone in her bedroom.

Dirty sheets are reused in hospitals, just as they are in the dirtiest, cheapest, nastiest doss houses. But hospitals aren’t supposed to be doss houses. They are places where the people in the beds are, by definition, all ill. Many of them with infectious diseases. I can understand bureaucrats accepting the re-use of dirty sheets. They are nasty, uncaring people. But doctors and nurses?

Dignity and respect are not words that the modern hospital employee understands. Not, at least, when applied to patients. Many hospitals still have mixed wards – with male and female patients forced to abandon their natural dignity in the interests of the hospital economy (so that the administrators can take yet another huge pay rise).

A generation or two ago most hospitals employed an almoner. It was her job (and the job was invariably held by a woman) to take care of patients’ social problems. Hospitals are awash with social workers who regard practical problems as beneath them and spend their days organising meetings to discuss meetings.

Back in the Middle Ages people were terrified to go into hospital. They knew it was a sentence of death. Relatives started digging your grave as you went through the doors of the local infirmary. Things are getting that way again.

One survey of hospital staff showed that only 44% thought that they would be happy with the standard of care provided if they were patients in their own

In military hospital units, doctors operate a simple but effective system whereby those whose need is greatest get seen first. It’s a sound principle. Life-saving should come first and life-enhancing should come second.

But the people who receive the best (and fastest) treatment are the patients who are represented by the most efficient lobbyists. The elderly, needless to say, have no one fighting in their corner. And so people wanting cosmetic surgery, sex change surgery, infertility treatment, and other lifestyle medicine have their needs met while the elderly are denied basic treatment which would in some cases transform their lives and others save their lives.

Today, well over twice as many people are killed in hospitals by infections as are killed on the roads.

The reason? Filthy wards, unhygienic practices, scandalously poor cleaning, grubby operating theatres, and staff who never wash their hands. There are more such infections in British hospitals than anywhere else in the world. Why? Simple. British hospitals are dirtier than hospitals anywhere else in the world.

If you live in Britain and have to go to the hospital for any operation or procedure, you now have a 50% chance of getting a worse disease from being in the hospital. That’s official. And if you do survive the experience and get to go home there is a good chance that you will leave malnourished. Staggeringly, one in five National Health Service (NHS) patients leaves hospital officially malnourished. Some patients don’t eat because the food is inedible and looks unappetising. For others the taste and quality of the food is irrelevant; they stay hungry because no one helps them eat it. Staff dump food on a patient’s table and then collect it, untouched, half an hour later. The patient, starving and hungry, hasn’t eaten because he or she was too weak to reach the food. Staff put food in front of semi-conscious patients and then walked away. In the 21st century NHS, the patients slowly starve to death. One NHS patient who was blind couldn’t see the food put before her. No one bothered to feed her.

NHS hospitals are now so badly run, so filthy, so unprofessionally managed that they are likely to do more harm than good.

The evidence has shown for years that many patients who have heart attacks are better off staying at home than going to the hospital.

Hospitals have become unsuitable for the healthy – let alone the sick.

People in Britain pay to go into private hospitals not because they expect to be treated more kindly, or because they expect better medical treatment, but because they hope that they will not be allowed to die from starvation or thirst and they believe, probably correctly, that the wards will be cleaner.

It is, perhaps, hardly surprising that the people who run (and work for) the National Health Service, prefer not to use it. Civil servants working at the Department of Health are entitled to be members of the Benendeen Healthcare Society which serves one million British Telecom, Post office, and civil service workers. If they fall ill, they get to go to a luxury private hospital. Staff at the General Medical Council are provided free membership in a private healthcare company.

A third of Britain’s general practitioners (GPs) would prefer private treatment for themselves and their families. Hospital consultants are the same. Here’s what one NHS consultant had to say: ‘In the past, we knew we would get good care on the NHS. I don’t trust it anymore. Even I can’t bully my way through the system.’

An increasing number of hospital doctors now buy private health care insurance so that they and their families won’t have to endure NHS care. Trade unions defend the NHS and oppose any reforms but many of them have done deals with private sector organisations to provide private health care insurance so that their members don’t have to use the NHS. More than half of the TUC’s members have some sort of private medical insurance. This is a higher proportion than any other socio-economic group in the UK.

Tables that rank British hospitals invariably show that independent hospitals do much better than NHS hospitals in every measurable respect. Patients are treated better and they get better quicker. It is, perhaps, hardly surprising that just about every patient in the country (and every sane one) would, if given a choice, choose to have an operation in a private hospital rather than an NHS hospital.

Politicians claim that they think the NHS is wonderful. They say that they wouldn’t dream of going into a private hospital. But they don’t have to wait to see a doctor and if they need in-patient treatment they go into private rooms where they are waited on hand and foot. They get private care without it costing them a penny.

Many hospitals refuse to allow visitors to take flowers into hospitals – arguing that flowers are a nuisance. This is sad. It has been known for thousands of years that patients are far more likely to get better quickly in hospitals that are bright, light, airy, and filled with gentle music and fresh flowers. Since the first hospitals were built, it has been recognised that the colour and perfume which flowers add to hospitals contribute greatly to the rate at which patients recover. Good hospitals are peaceful and are designed around a courtyard so that convalescing patients can walk in the cloisters and look at the flowers. However modern hospitals are designed for the convenience of the administrators. Patients are a bloody nuisance. I have recently been in several hospitals where the floors were carpeted because this made it nicer for the administrators when they were going to meetings. Naturally, the floors were stained with blood, urine, and all the other remnants that would normally be wiped up off the floor. You can’t ever properly clean a carpeted floor in a busy hospital because if the corridor is closed for proper cleaning the wards will be cut off. I know hospitals where the car park nearest the hospital entrance is reserved for administrators. Patients – however sick or frail they may be – have to walk, shuffle, or limp half a mile, possibly in the rain.

And why do hospitals clamp the cars of patients and visitors?

Do they really think people want to spend more time than necessary in these places?

One large hospital, which is not atypical, has 6,000 members of staff and 1,800 spaces for their cars. The inevitable result is that doctors, nurses, and cleaners have to park in the spaces allocated for patients and relatives who, therefore, cannot find anywhere to park at all. Patients whose appointments are delayed find themselves having to pay extortionate fines.

Time and time again I have received letters from readers telling me that while having tests (and waiting to be seen at yet another department) they had, on top of all their other worries, been frightened that they would outstay the maximum three-hour waiting period and would return to their vehicle to find it clamped.

Hospitals are so bad that it is, perhaps, hardly surprising that I have for some years now recommended that every patient going into hospital should take a supply of disinfectant wipes, a mobile telephone, the telephone number of a local 24-hour taxi service (in case they want to escape) and the phone numbers of at least three newspapers.

Remember: GPs kill retail but hospitals kill wholesale.


Source: IMG: © Getty Images NYT. AWIP:


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