NURSES were supposed to check on Ronald Bowman, a 74-year-old father-of-two, every 15 minutes while he was in hospital recovering from an illness.
But the pensioner repeatedly got out of his locked ward, and on the third occasion drowned in a nearby river while apparently trying to get home to his wife Irene.
Mr Bowman’s case is one of 13 that the Patients Association has included in a dossier, which it says proves patients are still being “shockingly let down” by the British National health Service ( NHS). All have come to light through a helpline.
The cases also include a war veteran who was treated “appallingly”; a grandmother who entered hospital with a bruised leg but ended up dying of sepsis; and a 15-year-old asthmatic who died after receiving substandard care at a minor injuries unit.
Mr Bowman had been making a strong recovery from meningitis at Panteg County Hospital in Gwent in the spring.
But on Friday June 29 he managed to get out of the ward and off the hospital grounds. On two previous occasions he had also got out of the locked ward, getting as far as the reception area and the car park.
The following Monday police found his shoes by the bank of the Cwmbran River. Three weeks later his body was discovered, four miles downstream.
Mr Bowman’s son Nick said: “We believed that as he had left the ward twice before, that the medical staff would be especially diligent when keeping an eye on my father. This was not the case.”
He added: “My family and I are incredibly hurt and distressed that after my father was admitted to hospital with meningitis, and seemingly making a recovery, he was left without any of the basic care that he deserved and needed.”
Common themes in the other cases include patients forced to soil their own beds and the mess only cleared up when pointed out by family members; ‘do not resuscitate’ orders placed without consultation; and discharge from hospital with adequate planning for ongoing care.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of The Patients Association, said: “The sad conclusion of this report is that still far too many patients are being shockingly let down by the NHS every day.
“These appalling and tragic cases serve to highlight the devastating consequences when poor practice is left unchallenged and unchanged.”
Although they could be dismissed as “isolated cases” she insisted that was not the case: “Behind each one are many more unheard voices.”
“Whilst there is a lot to be proud of about the NHS, including the overwhelming majority of staff who are skilled and hard-working, these cases are a tragic wake-up call for those in Westminster as well as on hospital wards.”
A "new culture of care" was needed from NHS trusts, she said.
Jeremy Hunt, the British Health Secretary, said: "These cases are shocking and tragic. That’s why next year we will introduce new ways of measuring and publishing the experiences that patients have in hospital.
"By shining a light on those organisations which have problems, we will be able to drive up standards so that everyone gets the quality of care they should expect."
A spokesman for Aneurin Bevan Health Board said an internal investigation had been launched into the “tragic incident” of Mr Bowman, adding: “As this case is the subject of a formal complaint it would however not be appropriate to comment further at this time.
Stephen Adams Telegraph.co.uk