Springfield Hospital

Part 6 of Findings and Recommendations Following Enquiries into Allegations Concerning the Care of Elderly Patients in Certain Hospitals

1. The Committee of Enquiry was appointed by the Manchester Regional Hospital Board in August, 1967, with the following terms of reference: —

(1)To investigate, so far as the available evidence permits, the allegations in pages 46 and 47 of “Sans Everything” in relation to conditions in Springfield Hospital in the period.

(2)To examine the situation in the geriatric/psychiatric wards in the hospital at the present time, and

(3)To make recommendations.

2. The first two meetings of the Committee were held under the Chairmanship of Mr. G. Heilpern, Q.C., but after his withdrawal, because of the pressure of other commitments, the Committee held its remaining five meetings under the Chairmanship of Mr. J. M. Davies, Q.C.

The other members of the Committee were: —

  • Mr. H. Aishen, F.C.I.S.
  • Professor W. H. Trethowan, M.B., F.R.C.P., F.R.A.C.P., D.P.M.
  • Mrs. A. E. Watkins, S.R.N., S.C.M.

The Committee heard and read evidence from members of the administrative, medical and nursing staff both past and present.

3.The allegations relating to this particular hospital (identified in the book as “Cosy Hospital”) covered a very short period of time and related to only two incidents in July, 1965. The author of the article has now expressly withdrawn any suggestion that he had ground for complaint other than the two specific incidents mentioned.

4. In the course of their enquiries, however, the Committee did discover that other incidents of ill-treatment of patients may well have taken place before and after the incidents described in the article. Although the incidents were few in number (a total of perhaps half a dozen in the four years between 1962 and 1966), it appeared to us to be established that most of them did take place. During this period, at least two of the charge nurses showed themselves prone to outbursts of ill-temper which expressed itself in violence. Although disciplinary proceedings were taken by the Management Committee whenever complaints of this nature were made to them, the results of such proceedings have not always been satisfactory. This was certainly not due to any lack of good intention by the Management Committee, but rather to inexperience in the holding of disciplinary enquiries.

5. The incidents related in the article were repeated before this Committee by the author himself. On the whole the Committee were inclined to accept the first incident so described as having taken place. The Committee rejected his version of the second incident. He seemed to be a highly emotional witness, prone to gross exaggeration.

6. There is good reason to believe that the danger of such incidents has considerably lessened since the retirement of a Chief Male Nurse who was in poor health and clearly found it difficult to exercise the supervision and discipline which is necessary in a hospital of this kind. Members of the Committee who visited the hospital in the course of the Enquiry found that recent improvements have been real and great both in nurse-patient relationship and in amenity.

7. We have reached certain conclusions and made certain recommendations which can be fairly summarised as under :—

(1)A high proportion of funds, when these become available, should be devoted to accommodation and amenities for both patients and staff.

(2)(a) Supervision and inspection (including the proper delegation of these functions) should be practised both more firmly and less formally.

(b) Authority and responsibility should be more clearly defined. In particular, the Principal Nursing Officer should be encouraged and supported in the maintenance of discipline among nursing staff.

(3) Disciplinary procedures should be studied and practised more carefully.

It seems to us that if attention be paid to these and to our review of the present situation, there remains little need for anxiety so far is the future treatment of patients in this hospital is concerned.

J. M. Davies,