Lawyers support Spinal Injuries Association bowel care campaign

Elizabeth Maliakal

Elizabeth Maliakal, Hudgell Solicitors

Specialist medical negligence law firm Hudgell Solicitors is supporting calls for a Parliamentary Inquiry to be held into the ‘inadequate and dangerous’ state of bowel care for patients with spinal cord injuries in healthcare settings.

It follows MPs, NHS representatives and Government officials being told how in some cases patients are left feeling ‘humiliated’ as they are unable to go to the toilet for days, or in extreme cases left lying in their own excrement in hospital beds due to a lack of dedicated, specialist care.

The issue was discussed at a recent Parliamentary roundtable meeting, hosted by the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) and attended by more than 30 representatives of the NHS, MPs and the spinal cord injury sector.

As Campaign for Change’ partners with the SIA, Solicitor Elizabeth Maliakal, of Hudgell Solicitors’ specialist medical negligence team, also attended and says the firm supports many people whose bowel care is ‘delayed or not attended to at all’.

Patient left feeling ‘humiliated and terrified’

Proper bowel care management is a basic human right, yet it is consistently the most challenging aspect of living with a spinal cord injury, the SIA says.

Now, the charity is calling for a Parliamentary Select Committee Inquiry into the matter, highlighting how patients are being left ‘humiliated’ and ‘terrified’ when going into hospital, with the situation potentially ‘life-threatening’.

Their ‘This is #SeriousSh1t’ campaign is calling for a commitment to ensure all NHS healthcare providers have a fully implemented bowel care policy in place.

Campaigns manager Dharshana Sridhar said: “Our research proves that there is a post code lottery at present in terms of the level of bowel care provided across the country. “

“We are now pushing for a Parliamentary Select Committee Inquiry so that consensus can be reached on what actions need to be taken to affect the change that so many people desperately need.”

“No one is blaming nurses for this as training is key and the department of health and social care who were present at our meeting are listening.

“We need to ensure there is a consistently good level of care for these patients, a national bowel care policy and adequately trained nursing staff in all hospitals and healthcare settings. These improvements will benefit not only those with spinal cord injury but also other patients that are in hospital and require specialist bowel care.”

Solicitors see impact on patients ‘physically and psychologically’

As ‘Campaign for Change’ partners, Hudgell Solicitors, which has offices in Hull, Manchester and London, is supporting the SIA call for a Parliamentary Inquiry.

Solicitor Elizabeth Maliakal says lawyers at the firm commonly represent patients who have suffered both physically and psychologically due to a lack of bowel care policies at hospitals, and a lack of fully trained bowel care nurses within the NHS.

“We see in our cases that very often when someone is admitted to hospital their bowel care can be delayed or not attended to at all, often impacting on their dignity and self-esteem, ultimately leading to poorer final outcomes,” she said.

“We fully support SIA’s call for an Inquiry into this issue. The campaign is shining a light on bowel care in hospitals and improvements will benefit not only those with spinal cord injury but also other patients that are in hospital and require bowel care, for example the elderly and patients who have had abdominal surgery.

“We cannot ignore the avoidable cost of failing to have adequately trained nursing staff; from extended hospital stays and increased damages and legal costs in the context of medical claims.”

‘Humiliated and frustrated’

SIA ambassador Jonathan Goodwin, who was left spinal cord injured after a TV stunt went wrong, has recently taken to social media highlight the issue.

He posted: “Without the correct care you are essentially filling up with poop and it is no laughing matter. As well as huge discomfort it can lead to dangerous conditions, that could be life threatening.”

Following a recent hospital visit, one spinal cord injured patient contacted SIA and said:

“I was instructed to get on with my own bowel care even if that meant messing the bed so I soiled myself many times.

“I’ve been spinal cord injured for over 40 years and have never felt as humiliated and frustrated as I did then. I’m now terrified about going into hospital again.”

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