Vulnerable dementia patient attacked in hospital

Morag Simpson suffered cuts to her face, neck and chest in the attack. Picture: contributed
Morag Simpson suffered cuts to her face, neck and chest in the attack. Picture: contributed
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A FAMILY has spoken of its horror after a defenceless pensioner was attacked as she lay in her hospital bed.

Frail Morag Simpson, who is partially paralysed down one side of her body and has dementia, was subjected to the terrifying ordeal on Saturday night at Ferryfield House, where she has been an inpatient for eight years.

It is believed that a male dementia patient staying in the hospital made his way into 85-year-old Morag’s room and launched the attack, which caused cuts to her face, neck and chest before staff stepped in.

Her son, George, 62, said he was horrified that his elderly mother, who has suffered heart attacks and strokes, had been left unprotected from violent patients.

Police were called in the aftermath of the incident but, because of the mental condition of the attacker, no charges will be brought.

“We’re just so angry,” Mr Simpson said. “She’s completely defenceless, she can barely move and is paralysed down her left side. Imagine how you would feel if it was your mother – it’s horrifying.

“It’s wrong that vulnerable people are left exposed like that. They should have a watcher who does nothing but make sure this type of thing doesn’t happen.

“She would have been terrified. She might not be able to remember everything but she still knows the pain. The image of her lying there afraid while being attacked haunts me.”

The hospital has two wards, with one, where Mrs Simpson is based, used to treat patients with “dementia and challenging behaviour” and the other for the frail and elderly. NHS Lothian said the hospital ran with safe staffing levels.

But Margaret Watt, chairperson of the Scotland Patient Association, said that hiring more workers would lessen the risk of patient on patient attacks.

“It’s very sad when this happens,” she said. “People don’t realise they’re doing it, it’s because of their illness. It shows we need more policing of wards – that doesn’t mean bringing the police in but doing more to check everyone’s safe. It’s up to the NHS to make sure vulnerable people are protected.”

Lynda Cowie, chief nurse with NHS Lothian and the Edinburgh Community Health Partnership, issued an apology to Mrs Simpson and her family.

She said: “We are currently investigating this incident and it would be inappropriate to comment further. Ferryfield House looks after frail and elderly and dementia patients often with extremely challenging behavioural issues. Patient safety is of paramount importance in everything we do and each member of staff is trained to deal with and manage challenging situations considerately and appropriately, ensuring patient safety at all times.”

A spokeswoman for Police Scotland said: “Police were called to an incident at Ferryfield Hospital on Saturday night. No further action will be taken.”


There were more than 800 patient on patient attacks in 2011 in Lothian hospitals.

The Royal Edinburgh Hospital in Morningside – the Capital’s main psychiatric hospital – sees the most incidents.

In October last year Philip Rutherford, an 87-year-old war veteran, was assaulted at the Western General Hospital by a patient wielding a metal pole. He suffered a broken hand as a result of the attack.

It has been suggested that technology should be used to monitor the movements of patients with dementia.

It can be used to ensure patients do not stray into areas of hospitals where they could harm others, or so that staff are alerted if they wander out of buildings.