Is this an NHS failure of duty of care?

By Posted on 4 min read 936 views

A few weeks ago my grandfather passed away. He spent the majority of his last two weeks in palliative care at a hospital.

Of his time in there, I want to write about one night in particular, but before I do, I want to ask you a question…

Is any reason you can think of why someone in a hospital should be in severe pain for an extended period of time?

I can’t think of a single one.

My grandfather, who was a retired neuroanesthesiologist, always said that there was no reason for anybody to ever be in pain.

And that makes sense with the amount of different pain medications available.

In fact, it should be a primary duty of care to relieve suffering.

On the particular evening in question, my grandfather started getting severe pain at around 5pm. He quickly asked for pain medication.

Thrity minutes later nobody had brought any pain medication back.

He requested it again.

Another thirty minutes later and nobody had brough any pain medcation.

It was around this time that my mum arrived at the hospital to find my grandad in agonising pain.

She went to request the pain medication again.

Still nothing happened.

By this time it was apparent it wasn’t just my grandfather, but the entire ward who weren’t getting pain medication. You could hear the people in other beds and wards asking for pain killers and shouting out in pain.

My grandfather had now been in agonising pain for hours.

As you can imagine, my mum started to cause a fuss, which was when she was told…

There was nobody available in the hospital who could prescribe pain medication to the ward.


That, in my personal opinion, is a failure of duty of care.

I don’t know the reason.

I don’t know how that happened.

All I know is that it took until 10:30 for a doctor who could prescribe pain medication to come onto a ward filled with patients in excrutiating pain.

By the time pain medication was distributed, some of those patients, like my grandfather, had been in this level of pain for over six hours!

I’m big advocate of the NHS, I think it’s one of the most incredible service.

As you can imagine, my grandadm, being a doctor, was also of the same belief.

Yet sometimes something happens that astounds me. It makes me sad that the level of beaurocracy and fear (which I can only assume was the root cause of this issue) can cause people to suffer in such an extreme way.

Not only did they have to suffer extremely for so many hours, they did it in the one place you should never have to experience this kind of suffering… a hospital.

And not just any hospital. An extremely well equipped hospital. A hospital that has plenty of pain medication in it’s cupboards.

More than anything it makes me sad.

We think of ourselves as one of the leading countries in the world, and rightly so, yet we allow something like this to happen.

And you can be 100% certain that if it happened that one evening in one hospital. It happens lots of evenings in lots of hospitals across the country.

How many people are left in agonizing pain in a hospital bed every day because there isn’t someone available to write a prescription for pain medication?

I wouldn’t like to guess.

Obviously there’s nothing that can be done to help my grandfather, he has passed away. However, I felt that I must write about this because it could help others.

It can’t take long to find out the circumstances where this scenario could happen, and then it can’t take long to fix it.

There doesn’t need to be a year long investigation or some 600 page report.

All it needs is someone with common sense, who’s prepared to stand-up and say “This isn’t acceptable” without fear they’re going to lose their jobs or be ostracised.

The same way it works in any business anywhere in the world. You see a problem, you find the cause and you fix it. Quickly.

You don’t need to spend hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of pounds, you don’t need to procrastinate. It just needs to be done, one hospital at a time.

Because… let’s be honest… it’s going to be nearly impossible to change something in every hospital at the same time.

So why even bother trying!

But if you don’t start somewhere you’ll never begin.

If I worked in medicine I’d challenge the status-quo. If I knew a way of doing it, I would.

As I don’t, I’m writing this and I’m prepared to listen to someone who can tell me how to do it, or to lend my help to the person who decides they want to do it.

Thank you for reading,


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