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Relatives told to help care on busy hospital wards

Nurses’ leaders sparked fury yesterday by telling families to look after elderly patients themselves on busy wards.

Relatives were stunned to find they were expected to feed their frail loved ones and take them to the toilet because of under-staffing.

One campaigner for better patient care said: “It’s a national disgrace. The Government should provide more nurses.”

As Tory NHS cuts bite, complaints have soared about patients left hungry, thirsty and in soiled beds. But visitors were told they must help more on wards by leaders of the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of General Practitioners.

Nurses’ general secretary Peter Carter said: “If you have a 24-bed ward with five nurses and everybody is having lunch at the same time and half the patients need feeding, it becomes difficult to get it all done.” He added patients were left “wetting themselves. It is about helping gran get out of bed and go to the loo”.

Dr Clare Gerada, of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said the NHS could not afford nurses to be feeding patients when families could do it. But Patients Association boss Katherine Murphy said: “I’m so angry. The way the elderly are often treated is a national disgrace. The Government should provide more nurses.”

Keith Botwright, whose mum Maureen, 75, of Stevenage, Herts, was left lying in her own waste by nurses, said: “Nobody begrudges helping out nurses during busy times but what happens when we go home?”

Age UK charity director Michelle Mitchell pointed out: “Older people often have complicated and multiple needs that need to be met by an experienced person.” The row comes as 50,000 NHS staff face losing their jobs over the next four years due to the  £20billion cuts.

Last night it was claimed nurses are at “breaking point” with stress, debts and bullying. A Royal College of Nursing poll found 54% may quit.

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