Frustration over lack of improvements to vital NHS service for Sheffield patients

Sheffield councillors have expressed their disappointment and frustration with problems around continence services for Sheffield NHS patients, five years after they first put forward recommendations for improvement.
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Sheffield City Council’s health scrutiny sub-committee decided last week (March 14) to outline their concerns and disappointment to Sheffield NHS bosses. They called for an update on what action, if any, has taken place since they investigated issues in 2019.

In December, Paul Sugars spoke at the committee about the problems experienced with the service around the end-of-life care for his 87-year-old father. He said that his father had been discharged from hospital with only seven days’ supply of continence products ahead of an assessment appointment several weeks away.

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Mr Sugars said that the continence service had also failed to attend meetings called to discuss his father’s hospital discharge. The family was forced to buy supplies to fill the gap despite nothing changing about his continence needs.

Paul Sugars speaking at a Sheffield City Council health scrutiny sub-committee about failures of the NHS continence service for his 87-year-old father, who is receiving end-of-life care at home. Picture: Sheffield Council webcastPaul Sugars speaking at a Sheffield City Council health scrutiny sub-committee about failures of the NHS continence service for his 87-year-old father, who is receiving end-of-life care at home. Picture: Sheffield Council webcast
Paul Sugars speaking at a Sheffield City Council health scrutiny sub-committee about failures of the NHS continence service for his 87-year-old father, who is receiving end-of-life care at home. Picture: Sheffield Council webcast

The committee heard that Mr Sugars’ questions have now been treated as a complaint to the NHS and members will not hear the outcome unless he agrees to sharing the decision with them.

Coun Dianne Hurst said: “It was a hard story to hear. It echoes what happened to my mother at end of life. It’s about dignity and it does reflect a disconnect of the services that they don’t appreciate that maintaining of dignity.”

She said it contrasted poorly to a report the committee received about improvements to the NHS Step Down service for patients leaving hospital stressing the importance of maintaining users’ dignity.

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Coun Laura McClean said she had heard about “people having to scrabble around in storage cupboards to try to find incontinence products because the supply somehow wasn’t happening”. She said nothing seems to have improved.

Coun Sophie Thompson said it was disappointing that no-one from the NHS trust had come to speak to the committee and update them about what was raised by a working group set up in 2019 to scrutinise continence services. Its recommendations had been accepted by the NHS.

She said the recommendations included considering issues such as getting feedback from patients, better consistency of the service and considering how it compromises the dignity of patients, as well as issues around stigma and racial inequalities.

“This was two to three years ago. How are we just here?” she asked.

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Coun Thompson added: “We don’t want to feel like people feel like they have to come to us to get their voice heard going down the line. I’m very frustrated by this.”

Committee chair Coun Ruth Milsom said: “I share your frustrations. In December it was highlighted the lack of progress, especially around hospital discharge, in that case it was end-of-life care, which in that case can be really distressing for families and carers, as well as the patients themselves.

“There are items in the recommendations that I would like to be treated as much more urgent.”

She also commented that the NHS supply chain is “used as an excuse in the delays in the supply of products that people need. I’ve seen this in several cases and it certainly was in the case that was brought to the committee in December”. She felt that different parts of the NHS are not working together, despite various services being merged.