Hospital says sorry for 'cupboard' care

Dan GrimmerHospital bosses today apologised for making patients stay in rooms described as 'store cupboards' - and pledged to review the shocking practice.Dan Grimmer

Hospital bosses today apologised for making patients stay in rooms described as 'store cupboards' - and pledged to review the shocking practice.

Within just 24 hours of the Evening News launching its End The Indignity campaign, those in charge at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital have acted.

Yesterday we called for steps to be taken following shocking revelations about the standard of rooms some hospital patients are being forced to put up with.

Such are the pressures at the hospital, staff have had to resort to placing people in 'treatment rooms' - often more akin to storerooms with hospital stock piled on shelves next to them - and some have even had to stay in them overnight.

The practice was brought to light after we were contacted by the family of Rhoda Talbot, an 85-year-old from Tunstead, who stayed in one of the rooms overnight surrounded by bloodstained bins, electrical equipment and bandages.

Scores more patients contacted us saying they had been treated in the clinical treatment rooms, but hospital managers maintained that this was a 'normal practice' when they were under severe pressure and said they had no reason to apologise to patients.

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However, in a remarkable u-turn following pressure from the Evening News, MPs, community leaders, nursing unions and the public, the chairman of the hospital, David Prior, and chief executive Anna Dugdale, admitted putting people in the rooms was 'not acceptable'.

A joint statement read: 'The routine use of treatment rooms in the hospital for overnight patient stays is the last thing we want. The treatment rooms will only be used in exceptional circumstances where the alternative is the cancellation of an important operation and a long wait in A&E.

'We are reviewing the use of treatment rooms and immediately implementing a refurbishment programme so that if they have to be used, they are as patient friendly as possible.

'The hospital has gained an additional 54 acute beds over the last three months (bringing the total to 1,010) and has access to 48 new rehabilitation beds in Norwich.

'However, if emergency admissions continue to rise this will not be enough. In the meantime, it is essential that people only attend A&E when it is absolutely necessary.

'We are determined to create the right capacity in the hospital so that treatment rooms are not needed. We are really sorry that a small number of patients have had to stay in treatment rooms overnight and we are determined to stop that.

'We look forward to working with the partners and the public to ensure that the N&N has the right number of beds to cope with requirements of a growing elderly population.'

Today the move was welcomed by health campaigners and the family of patients - but many said they wanted to see a more long-term solution for the rising number of patients visiting the hospital every day.

Rod Talbot, son of Rhoda Talbot, said: 'I'm so pleased. I wasn't pleased they put her in there but I'm so pleased that with the help of the Evening News we have shown them it is not the thing to do. It's absolutely wonderful.

'It's deeply comforting to know that other patients won't have to go through what my mother went through. You don't know how it felt when we got there and found her in that room.

'She said if anything else happened to her she wouldn't go back to the hospital. Now they have done an absolute u-turn, perhaps she will change her mind too. I think it is fantastic news. It's a big thumbs up from the Talbot family.'

Helen Howes, a mother-of-one who was placed in a treatment room ahead of urgent surgery last month, said she was pleased to hear future patients would not have to put up with the sleepless nights and constant disturbances that she did.

'The sooner these things are implemented the better,' the 35-year-old said.

But she was also annoyed that it took a number of vulnerable patients highlighting their ordeals in the Evening News before any action was taken by the hospital.

Ms Howes, from Newton St Faith, near Norwich, who complained to the ward sister at the time of her treatment, said: 'The damage has been done. People have been put in treatment rooms. It's not acceptable and it should never have happened in the first place.

'If this wasn't brought to light, they wouldn't have said it. Why let it get to the point where people have to go to the press? That shouldn't have happened.'

Adrian Ing, regional officer for Norfolk for the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said: 'The RCN is pleased that the N&N has recognised that the use of treatment rooms in this way is wrong, however, it remains to be seen whether the trust will now take immediate remedial action to ensure that this practice is stopped.

'The RCN has on previous occasions been assured that this was a short term 'solution' yet the practice appears to have become customary.

'The N&N need to address the ongoing capacity and rehabilitation issues that lie at the heart of this problem to ensure that patients are cared for, at all times, in a dignified environment.'

North Norfolk MP and Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb, said: 'First of all I applaud bosses at the hospital for getting a grip and making a clear commitment to patients.

'Now it is essential they meet that clear commitment so bring an end to this unacceptable practice. I will be monitoring this, as will others, and if they do not meet patients' needs they will be tackled.'

Ian Gibson, former MP for Norwich North who campaigns on numerous health issues in the county, said he was glad to see the hospital had taken the Evening News message 'to heart' but wanted to make sure bosses kept everyone informed about any changes they needed to make.

He said: 'I think there is still a lot more to come and we will be watching them. It is good there has been an apology but there is the long term issue of demand and pressure to seriously look at.

'While I welcome this short term measure many are still concerned with the long terms problems due to the increase of patients here.'

What has been made clear by every family who contacted the Evening News is they have no complaints with members of staff who they say are 'excellent'.

To read the Evening News letter to the hospital, which started the campaign, log on to

To read Ian Gibson's opinion about the issue turn to page 42.

Do you have a health story for the Evening News to investigate? Contact Sarah Hall on 01603 772426 or email