Royal Edinburgh under fire over dementia care

Royal Edinburgh Hospital. Picture: Julie Bull
Royal Edinburgh Hospital. Picture: Julie Bull
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A DAMNING report on the care of elderly patients stuck in Edinburgh’s main psychiatric hospital due to the shortage of care home places said they were being prescribed powerful sedatives and left for months with little to do.

The Mental Welfare Commission told NHS Lothian it had serious concerns about the treatment of patients with dementia symptoms at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital.

It highlighted staff shortages and said it had found some patients still in bed at lunchtime because staff “just had not had the time to get them up yet”.

The commission said boredom and lack of activity was leaving people in a distressed state.

And it said difficulty in moving people on to care homes meant one patient had been in the hospital for nine months.

In a separate report, Edinburgh Carers Council raised concerns about patients being dressed in other people’s clothes.

The documents emerged as a result of a Freedom of Information request by relatives of war veteran Peter O’Malley, from Haymarket, who died at the hospital in Morningside last October.

His daughter, Catherine Thompson, said: “My father experienced significantly poor care while trapped in that hospital. His clothes were lost and he suffered repeated falls.”

She said the day after taking her father fresh clothes, with name labels, she saw a nurse putting them in another patient’s drawer.

She said: “Other families and vulnerable elderly people should not have to share our experiences. They deserve to be treated with dignity.”

In February, figures showed the number of people stuck in hospital beds for weeks because of care shortages in the community had soared by 165 per cent.

After visits to the Royal Edinburgh’s Ward 14 and Canaan Ward, the then chief executive of the Mental Welfare Commission, Dr Donald Lyons, wrote to NHS Lothian: “We found very poor evidence of activity provision, a serious concern about the high number of people who appeared to be ‘delayed discharges’ and significantly poor care, apparently due to lack of staffing.”

It noted that 15 out of 20 patients in the male ward and seven out of 20 in the female ward should have been discharged but were waiting for community care to be organised.

The commission report said: “There seems to be a crisis in Edinburgh in progressing patients on to suitable nursing homes.”

Dr David Farquharson, medical director of NHS Lothian, said: “We met Mr O’Malley’s family and apologised for our failings in the care he received.

“The commission has made recommendations and we have begun implementing these as a matter of urgency.”