Deaf Man 'Treated As If He Had Dementia'

The Man's Widow Has Received An Apology From The Aneurin Bevan Health Board


Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

Reports have emerged that an 80-year-old deaf man was treated as if he had dementia by nurses because of an administrative error.

Staff at Abergavenny's Nevill Hall Hospital thought the man's behaviour was caused by a degenerative brain condition and not that he was hard of hearing.

This, reports the BBC, led medical professionals to neglect in telling him he may have developed cancer because they thought he would not be able to process this information, something that compromised his ability to receive acceptable standards of care.

The man, who was known as Mr W in an investigation by a public services ombudsman, was also fitted with a catheter even though he was not incontinent and this meant he had to attempt to reach the toilet without assistance, as he did not like using it.

It was on one of his attempts to reach a lavatory that he fell to the ground, as railings had not been fitted around his bed.

Mr W's widow, Mrs W, believes the catheter was fitted because it was easier for nurses to do this than let him keep going to the toilet.

An ombudsman's report also revealed clinical discussions did not take place with the man's family when he was diagnosed with cancer in hospital, with the 80-year-old only told of his condition during a routine GPs meeting.

Richard Williams, the director of Action on Hearing Loss Cymru, told the BBC: "Sadly, there are real problems deaf people in Wales face accessing services.

"We do come across cases similar to this, not necessarily with such horrific outcomes.

"It's very common amongst our members. Access to health services is one of their biggest concerns. It's quite routine that the health service is able to communicate with people only by telephone, which is a massive barrier for deaf people."

Mr W died of following a chest infection in September 2011, although it has not been established whether this was the result of care failings.

Aneurin Bevan Health Board has apologised for the case and said lessons have been learned.


Expert Opinion
As life expectancy increases so does our elderly population and the issues that come with health conditions as people become older.

“It is crucial that the whole healthcare industry is appropriately set up to properly care for older patients. In this case there appear to be serious errors arising from the fact that they misinterpreted his deafness for dementia.

“There are an increasing number of services being identified as potentially being remote access over the phone or via a computer, but there are many people for who this is simply not appropriate. Everyone must be able to access the optimum level of healthcare so that patient safety is not compromised.”
Lisa Jordan, Partner