Two Healthcare Assistants Jailed for Cruelty

Laura Donnelly, Telegraph (London), August 23, 2013

Two healthcare assistants have been jailed for cruelty after slapping elderly patients and torturing one pensioner by holding a sheet over her and telling her she was dead.

One victim said she was left suicidal after being subjected to abuse by the workers employed by Whipps Cross Hospital, in north east London, which was recently issued with formal warnings over uncaring staff and filthy surroundings

Judge Timothy Lamb QC said the women’s “spiteful” actions had damaged patient trust in the NHS.

Akousa Sakyiwaa, 38, was convicted of four counts of ill-treatment and neglect of patients treated at the hospital last year.

In one incident, the healthcare assistant held a bed sheet over 87-year-old Joan Massett’s head, telling her she was dead, the court heard, another time slapping a woman of 92. She was jailed for 12 months.

Sharmila Gunda, 36, was given a five-month sentence after being found guilty of one count of neglect and one count of assault by beating an elderly patient in her care.

Akousa Sakyiwaa and Sharmila Gunda

Akousa Sakyiwaa and Sharmila Gunda

Gunda was found guilty of one charge of neglect and one charge of assault by beating June Evans, who gave evidence during the trial.

In a statement read to the court, the pensioner said: “Since the incident that took place last year I have completely lost trust in the health service. I lost faith in my GP, the ambulance service and hospitals in general.”

The elderly women discharged herself from the hospital following the assault and was in a state of distress when she had to return to Whipps Cross for further treatment.

“I wanted to die,” she said.

“I thought why couldn’t I have a heart attack and end it.”

Fellow healthcare assistant Annette Jackson, 33, of Hounslow, west London, was given a two-month suspended sentence and ordered to complete 100 hours unpaid work after being convicted of one count of ill-treatment or neglect.

The three women, who were responsible for looking after elderly female patients, including those with dementia, were charged following a Metropolitan Police inquiry into the hospital after a student nurse acted as a whistleblower.

The judge labelled Gunda “spiteful” before telling Sakyiwaa: “Maybe this offending showed a sign of your character that you and other people didn’t know about.”

Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, has apologised to patients and stressed it has a “zero tolerance approach” to any form of neglect or ill-treatment.

The trust said that all three women had their contracts of employment terminated.

The was issued with three formal warnings last week after inspectors found “unsafe” conditions at Whipps Cross including filthy maternity wards and water placed out of the reach of elderly patients.

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