Ann Clwyd, a Labour MP and Chair of the Human Rights parliamentary group, accused the National Health Service (NHS) of inhumane treatment and fears the normalisation of cruelty is now rife.
Clwyd, whose husband, Owen Roberts, died in the University Hospital of Wales, told the Guardian that her greatest regret was that she did not stand in the corridor and scream in protest at the callous lack of care with which the nurses treated her dying husband.
Clwyd described her husband as being treated like a "battery hen". She said nurses treated him with "coldness, resentment, indifference and even contempt". He died on October 23 of hospital acquired pneumonia. Clwyd said:
Nobody should have to die in conditions like I saw my husband die in. I have tried in the past to get Bills through parliament on the welfare of battery hens. My husband died like a battery hen.
Clwyd, who has been a member of parliament since 1984, was a member of a Royal Commission on the NHS and served on the Welsh Hospital board said she found it impossible to have her concerns taken seriously. She added:
It's uncomfortable speaking out and I don't like it but if I couldn't get anyone to listen to me, how do other people manage it?
According to a report by the Patients Association, Ann Clwyd's experience is just the tip of a very large iceberg. The Information Daily cites Katherine Murphy, the Chief Executive of the Patients Association, as saying that they receive eight thousand complaints a year from patients and relatives of "tragically poor care" in the NHS. The Association's report lists example after example of "appalling" care.
In response to this and the recent finding by the regulator, the Care Quality Commission, that a quarter of all care fails to meet essential standards, Jane Cummings, England's Chief Nursing Officer, has launched a campaign to ensure the values nurses stand for are not betrayed, says BBC News.
On a Panorama documentary, How Safe is Your Hospital, broadcast on Monday, the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, acknowledged that dangerously sub-standard levels of care exist in the NHS. He told the programme:
Whilst failings in care at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust may have shocked many, we cannot say with confidence that some of those failings do not exist in pockets elsewhere in the NHS and social care system.
The reference to Mid-Staffordshire, where it is estimated that as many as twelve hundred patients died as a result of what an inquiry characterised as "appalling" care, is indicative of the significance of the problem.
Dr Peter Carter, the Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing, placed the blame on the service having to make £20 billion of efficiency savings by 2015.
However, Professor Peter Crome, in an interview on BBC's Radio Four Today programme, identified the cause of the problem as the task-orientated approach to care. He said:
I believe what they mean is that nurses and other care staff - whether they're in hospitals, hospices or in the community - should take a more caring and compassionate role when it comes to looking after vulnerable groups, rather than what is often seen as a very task-oriented approach.