Saturday, January 7, 2023

This Michigan nonprofit helped derail guardianship reforms, called AG effort a 'task farce'

It was supposed to be bi-partisan legislation that would help our state’s most vulnerable people. But instead of sailing through, several proposed guardianship reforms have stalled.

By: Heather Catallo

(WXYZ) — It was supposed to be bi-partisan legislation that would help our state’s most vulnerable people.

But instead of sailing through the state legislature, several proposed guardianship reforms have stalled.

In Michigan, if a court declares you legally incapacitated, a judge can appoint a guardian for you, which means you can no longer make your own legal, medical or financial decisions.

Back in 2021, Attorney General Dana Nessel’s Elder Abuse Task Force helped launch bi-partisan bills designed to better protect people who are put under guardianship.

But those bills never got signed into law thanks in part to professional guardians who did not want the same changes.

For 5 years, the 7 Investigators have been exposing problems in Michigan’s guardianship system.

“It's disgusting. Our elderly people shouldn't be a commodity and shouldn't be able to be trafficked by these people,” said Gretchen Sommer.

A judge appointed a professional guardian instead of family member for Sommer’s aunt, Barbara Delbridge, and her uncle, Bob Mitchell, back in 2018.

“Kept them hostage, took them from their families, locked them behind a six-and-a-half-foot privacy fence and just drained their estate, researched how to sell off their property,” said Sommer.

The guardian billed Bob and Barb’s estate for more than $376,000 in fees.

Our investigations helped fuel new reforms crafted by Nessel’s Elder Abuse Task Force, and in 2021, after years of work, they introduced four bills to change the state law.

“We felt as though it would completely change the face of protection of seniors in Michigan,” Nessel told 7 Investigator Heather Catallo.

Full Article & Source:
This Michigan nonprofit helped derail guardianship reforms, called AG effort a 'task farce'

‘You can blame me.’ Judge's controversial comments suggest protection for professional guardians

The 7 Investigators obtained video of a local judge at a recent conference that raises questions about the relationship between judges and professional guardians.

By: Heather Catallo

(WXYZ) — In Michigan, if a court declares you legally incapacitated, a judge can appoint a guardian for you, which means you can no longer make your own medical, financial or legal decisions.

For years, the 7 Investigators have been exposing problems in the guardianship system.

Now video taken of a local judge raises questions about the relationship between judges and professional guardians.

The 7 Investigators have been documenting examples of guardianships gone wrong across Southeast Michigan since 2017. Probate judges can appoint a guardian for anyone deemed legally incapacitated. When you become someone’s ward, the guardian has total say over your life, including medical and financial decisions.

Our reporting caught the attention of Attorney General Dana Nessel, who formed the Elder Abuse Task Force and introduced legislation in the hopes of improving the guardianship system.

“Don't we owe that to seniors in our state,” said Nessel.

But the bills did not get signed into law, in part because of pushback from some key players in the probate courts.

The Michigan Guardianship Association (MGA) battled against the bills, calling the AG’s task force a “task farce.”

“It's so incredibly demeaning,” said Nessel.

The MGA wasn’t alone. Oakland County Probate Judge Daniel A. O’Brien wrote a letter to state legislators urging them not to pass the bills.

And now the 7 Investigators have obtained video of Judge O’Brien at a recent Michigan Guardianship Association conference, talking about the legislation and giving advice to a room full of professional guardians during a question and answer session.

Web Extra | Judge O'Brien at Michigan Guardianship Association conference

“The damage that has been done to this practice that you guys are all in, by legislation, by publicity, from public servants supposedly, politicians really – is just unfathomable,” said O’Brien in the video.

The video was taken by a conference attendee, and later provided to the 7 Investigators.

One statement that’s raising questions centers on the sale of a ward’s home. Guardians often ask the court for permission to sell property. They say it’s to pay for the ward’s care, but the guardian can get paid in the process.

“When you are having problems with your case, file a petition for instruction, ok… for me to make the decision. If you've got family members giving you a hard time, if you're concerned about how it might look. I saw a question at one of the earlier sessions about selling a house. Come to me, get authority, and what it does is it protects you and it takes… you can blame me. Say 'what can I say? The judge gave me an order. I just asked him what to do, and he said or she said to sell it,'” said O’Brien in the video.

Web Extra | AG Nessel on Judge O'Brien's comments

“It's as though he's giving them permission to do something they know that they shouldn't be doing. That's my take away from the way that that was phrased,” said Nessel after she saw the video.

Judge O’Brien says that’s not what he meant and says he would tell family members to file a petition for instruction as well.

“The appearance there is that you're giving the guardians cover to sell the wards property,” asked 7 Investigator Heather Catallo.

“Yeah, I get that. But I might not let them sell it. It's really the thing. And... I don't know how you want to put it. I was just cutting to the chase,” said O’Brien about the video. “I tell everyone, not just guardians, not just professional guardians, but any family member— you have a problem, you try to work it out with your brother, your sister, your parent, whatever it is. The professional guardian. If you're not getting satisfaction, file a petition. Bring it to me. Let me make the decision.”

In the video, O’Brien often praises the professional guardians in Oakland County, some of whom have hundreds of wards.

“The people of my county are wonderful people,” said O’Brien in the video.

Web Extra | Interview with Judge O’Brien

“I hear about Oakland County more than any of the 82 other counties,” said Nessel. “When I was running for office in 2018, what I would get more than anything else is people would call it 'the cabal.' That was the phrasing. And, you know, I'm not saying that it's merited or it's not. I'm saying that's the perception that people have in the Oakland County Probate Court, is that there is this very cozy relationship between the professional guardians and between the judges, and that regular people are not going to get a fair shake.”

O’Brien is one of four judges in Oakland County’s probate court. To be clear, not all of the Oakland County complaints filed with the AG or reported to the 7 Investigator involve his courtroom.

“Are you as fair to family members as you are to the professional guardians in Oakland County,” Catallo asked O’Brien.

“I try to be. Yeah. You know, the thing is, is that if I have to cut somebody off or if I have to rule against them, they're going to think I'm being unfair. There's no way around it,” said O’Brien. “But I do my best to remain impartial and just standpoint. And I do that by focusing on the person whose name is on the case.

"The thing about the professionals is they've been dealing with me all this time. And they are professionals and they know what I'm going to be concerned about, and what I'm not concerned about. They know the rules, so they know where to direct their attention. I try to really try to be as fair as possible with family members as humanly possible. Do I fail? I'm not trying to be flippant about that.... I don't want to be unfair. But does it happen? I handle thousands of hearings every year; 70, 80, 100 a week, some weeks. Some are going to make mistakes and some of those — somebody's going to have a chance to come back and get that mistake corrected. There's all sorts of options. They can file a motion for re hearings. They can appeal me to the Court of Appeals. They can try again," said O'Brien.

Judge O’Brien did agree there are problems in the probate system, but he does not agree with the proposed law changes from the AG’s task force.

He also told us the most important thing you can do if your loved one winds up under guardianship is to speak up.

“If you want something, ask me. Put it in writing if you can. If not, show up at the hearing. I'll do my best to follow the law and apply it to the facts,” said O’Brien.

The guardianship bills are expected to be introduced again in the new legislative session this year.

Full Article & Source:
‘You can blame me.’ Judge's controversial comments suggest protection for professional guardians

Friday, January 6, 2023

AG Nessel Resolves Wayne County Guardianship Case

LANSING – Attorney General Dana Nessel today announced resolution of a Wayne County professional guardianship case she intervened in early November of 2022. 

Wayne County Probate Judge Lawrence Paolucci held two hearings and provided Patricia Dudek, an appointed guardian and conservator, with the opportunity to formally respond to the Attorney General’s Notice of Intervention and Objections to her Amended Final Account of Fiduciary.

Despite an extension of time for a response, Dudek did not file a written response to the objections from the Department of Attorney General.  The court followed the Department of Attorney General’s recommendations for evaluating the fees and ordered a total refund of over $41,000. 

The refund was offset by about $12,000 in payments Dudek made on behalf of the protected individual, pursuant to the court’s first order.  Dudek refunded $21,000, and at the second hearing, she was ordered to refund $8,787.12 more.  Additionally, Dudek was not allowed to place a lien on any future personal injury recovery the individual may obtain. In sum, Dudek billed the individual $78,962.20 in legal and fiduciary fees and was only awarded $3,136.17, or about four percent, of the total she billed.

This result follows a 2020 suspension for 90 days of Dudek’s license to practice law for among other things, charging a client an excessive fee

“I am pleased at the outcome of our intervention and would like to thank Wayne County Probate Judge Lawrence Paolucci for his stellar thoroughness and dedication in protecting the ward who was the subject of this case.” said Nessel.  “While many professional guardians consider their work public service and labor tirelessly on their files—there remain some bad actors out there who exploit vulnerable individuals. Those who take advantage of vulnerable individuals hoping that overwhelmed courts may not notice, beware. Our department will endeavor to intervene in these cases in order to protect the public.”

In October 2021, Dudek was appointed guardian and conservator for an individual with a $30,000 yearly income who also received an inheritance of about $42,000.  Dudek’s own accounting illustrates that between October 2021 and June 2022 she billed the protected person about $79,000 for less than a year’s work. Within about five weeks of receiving the protected individual’s $42,000 inheritance and before any inventory accounting for current assets was filed with the probate court, Dudek paid herself more than the protected individual’s entire inheritance, including charging for work she had not yet performed.  

A fiduciary is an individual or organization who has a legal duty to act in the best interest of someone else and has a duty to act with the highest degree of honesty toward the protected person, including the duties of undivided loyalty, care, and prudence in actions. Dudek charged her legal hourly rate of $350 for guardianship and conservator services and billed the protected person by providing more than 630 pages of emails.

Any individual who believes they or a loved one have been taken advantage of by an attorney serving as a guardian or a conservator may file a grievance with the Attorney Grievance Commission.

If the guardian or conservator is not an attorney and the file is still open with the probate court, the complaint should be directed to the probate court where the guardian or conservator is serving.


Please note: A criminal charge is merely an allegation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. 

Full Article & Source:
AG Nessel Resolves Wayne County Guardianship Case

New allegations lead to early retirement of previously disciplined Russellville judge

By Max Brantley

Details are lacking, but this news release suggests that Pope County District Judge Don Bourne, suspended without pay for two weeks for ethical infractions last year, didn’t learn his lesson.

In August, the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission recommended that the Arkansas Supreme Court suspend Bourne without pay for 90 days, with 75 days held in abeyance if his behavior improved. He also accepted a censure. The deal meant that, with good behavior, he could hold his office until the end of his term on Dec. 31, 2024.

The disciplinary body moved to revoke the suspension held in abeyance on Dec. 2, following five more complaints about the judge’s conduct.

Bourne, who had 20 years as a judge and 20 years as a city attorney and deputy prosecutor, had a sketchy record dating back a long while. As we wrote in August:

One count of the complaint said he made demeaning comments to defendants — such as telling Spanish speakers they should learn English and making negative comments about people who were not from Pope County.

Another count said he had mishandled indigence requests. Requests for indigent status were rarely approved and records weren’t kept. In some misdemeanor cases, he told defendants he wouldn’t appoint an attorney, telling them instead “Get a job.” The count cites extensive reporting by KARK on Bourne’s court.

Bourne had been disciplined before for making a campaign contribution in a partisan political race.

The finding said Bourne lacked “humility and compassion” and he did not attempt to make court fair to the powerless and vulnerable.

It said Bourne’s actions were part of an extended pattern of conduct and he didn’t appear to see the problem and begin to change his behavior until advice from legal counsel.

The Supreme Court followed the disciplinary recommendation. He agreed to several remedial measures.
*Observing and reflecting on the conduct of other judges.
*Record proceedings in his court.
*Allow commission courtroom monitors
*Attend a judicial ethics class.
*Read about and take training about bullying and harassment.

I’m attempting to learn more about the nature of new allegations that prompted his early departure from the bench.

UPDATE: David Sachar, executive director of the commission, said days after Bourne was back on the bench he continued making discourteous comments about people in court — about their weight, where they lived and how they earned a living. The disciplinary staff was able to confirm complaints received about Bourne because of the recording devices installed in the courtroom as part of the previous discipline.

Sachar added:

The public should be treated with dignity, patience, and courtesy when they appear in front of a judge. This increases the public’s confidence in the justice system. Proper judicial demeanor is not an afterthought – it is a necessary quality for a judge to fulfill their oath to the people of the State of Arkansas.

Allegations of systemic mistreatment of people who appear in court are taken seriously. Judges hold incredible power. The vast majority of them wield that power effectively while also being as courteous as possible. I am thankful for the judges that uphold their oath while treating everyone with dignity.

Judge Bourne agreed to leave the bench after we filed a motion to petition the Supreme Court to instate his remaining unpaid suspension. We had new complaints – some literally from just days after he returned to the bench – and those were being investigated as well. Now all his complaints will be closed as he will no longer be a judge.

Full Article & Source:
New allegations lead to early retirement of previously disciplined Russellville judge

Florida caretaker arrested after video shows her shoving, hitting disabled man, deputies say

by  Penny De La Cruz

Chelsey Payne, 30 (Courtesy of Flagler County Sheriff's Office. Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

– A Florida caretaker was arrested on Dec. 2 after being caught on camera abusing a disabled man in her care last month.

On Nov. 22, Flagler County deputies responded to reports about a woman physically abusing a disabled man at the Palm Coast Community Center a day prior, the sheriff’s office said.

The community center provided investigators with surveillance footage showing 30-year-old Chelsey Payne pushing the man, as well as hitting him in the face several times with both an open hand and a closed fist.

Deputies said Payne, who was identified via the footage, was an employee of East Coast Habilitation Options, Inc., a company that provides service for those with developmental disabilities. According to a news release, Payne was fired by the company after they were made aware of the incident.

“This supposed ‘caretaker’ clearly did not show any care of compassion was she was abusing a disabled person,” Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said in a statement. “We send our deepest sympathies to the victim and their family.”

Payne was arrested in her home in Putnam County and was taken to the Flagler County jail, where she was later released on bond.

She is facing a charge for the abuse of a disabled adult, whose identity is not being released at this time.

Full Article & Source:
Florida caretaker arrested after video shows her shoving, hitting disabled man, deputies say

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Nancy Grace Investigation: Trapped, Britney Spears & Guardianships


Nancy Grace Investigation: Trapped, Britney Spears & Guardianships

Britney Spears' Father Jamie Faces Legal Battle With Former Security Member Who Accused Him of Spying on Pop Star

Jamie Spears faces additional legal trouble from a former member of Britney Spears‘ security team.

Alex Vlasov – an employee who worked for Black Box Security, the 41-year-old pop star’s former security company – made a startling allegation that Jamie was abusing his powers as conservator by spying on his daughter through her personal phone calls and text messages

The allegations were first revealed in the 2021 documentary The New York Times Presents: Controlling Britney Spears. Similar claims were corroborated by a former FBI agent and private investigator in January 2022, according to court documents filed by Britney‘s lawyer Mathew Rosengart.

Alex is now accusing Jamie of inappropriate behavior in an ongoing legal battle and is asking a judge to sanction or fine him $10,000.

According to legal documents obtained by Radar Online, Alex accused Jamie of “abuse and misuses of the discovery process” after he was subpoenaed for additional information. He further claimed that the Spears patriarch is acting to “punish” him for speaking out.

Mr. Spears and his counsel have improperly used this proceeding to engage in a scorched earth litigation campaign against Britney Spears and now a third-party witness, Alexander Vlasov, who courageously exposed Mr. Spears’s wrongdoing,” the document reads. “Mr. Spears’ goals appear to have been three-fold: (i) attempt to embarrass and intimidate his daughter; and (ii) generate wasteful legal expenses that he apparently seeks payment of from her estate, while (iii) improperly using this proceeding to harass and punish those who have led to Mr. Spears’ disgraceful removal as conservator. This is litigation vengeance of the highest order. It is improper.”

This is not the first time Jamie has been accused of improper behavior in court.

If you missed it, Jamie opened up about a variety of topics in a new interview, breaking his silence for the first time after his daughter was freed from her conservatorship.

Full Article & Source:
Britney Spears' Father Jamie Faces Legal Battle With Former Security Member Who Accused Him of Spying on Pop Star

Cherokee couple charged after kicking 85-year-old mother out days before Christmas, deputies say

CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ga. — A Cherokee County couple is facing elder abuse charges after they allegedly threatened and kicked an 85-year-old woman out of their home.

According to police reports, Lila Harris was living with her daughter and son-in-law, Donna and Michael Schmeck, on Arbor Hill Road in Cherokee County.

Harris told deputies she sold her home in July 2022 and moved in with the Schmecks without a formal written agreement.

She said that in an effort to ease the financial burden living in the house would cause, Harris told deputies that she purchased an approximately $30,000 truck in Donna Schmeck’s name.

Police reports show that Harris reported that her daughter and son-in-law did not feel that the truck was enough compensation and demanded more money or they would refuse to provide her utilities and food. She said the couple believed she was using too much electricity.

The couple also threatened to steal her collection of silver coins if she did not pay them $600, the report shows. Harris hid the coins in a safety deposit box, but some of them had already been taken.

Harris said that just days before Christmas, Michael Schmeck made her fear for her life when he smashed a chair next to her. The next day, Harris said the couple told her she had to leave the house despite not having anywhere to go.

Harris’ granddaughter came to the area a short time later and has been living in a Canton hotel with her since.

Reports show several unauthorized charges on Harris’ account. Harris reported the charges to her bank, which she says was the reason she was kicked out of the house.

Both Donna and Michael Schmeck were arrested and charged with exploitation and intimidation of an elder and criminal trespass. Donna was charged with card fraud and Michael was charged with assault.

Full Article & Source:
Cherokee couple charged after kicking 85-year-old mother out days before Christmas, deputies say

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Woman celebrates 100th birthday after retiring at 99



 A Cincinnati woman just celebrated her 100th birthday Monday.

Ann Kohstall celebrated with friends and family at one of her favorite restaurants – Cancun.

Kohstall has quite the story. She helped raise her grandchildren after her daughter died from cancer. She says it was her daughter's wish that she would take care of them, so she did.

Her family says they had to push back celebrations due to the snowstorm but were finally able to get together.

When asked what it felt like to be 100 years old, she responded, "just like I did when I was 30!"

She has three children, nine grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

When her husband Charles died in 1995, she got a job at the North College Hill Senior Center, where she worked until retiring at age 99.

"She’s as stubborn as they come, but we love her like crazy," her daughter said.

Full Article & Source:
Woman celebrates 100th birthday after retiring at 99

PA Department of Banking recommends making money moves safely


HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities recently released their December quarterly newsletter full of financial advice moving into the new year — including tips on making money and protecting the money already earned.

When the New Year rolls around it often comes with a redoubling of efforts to make better choices concerning finances, health and/or habits.

For individuals who have made the choice, or are simply thinking about focusing on their financial efforts this new year, the Department of Banking and Securities encourages them to consider the following four resolutions this new year:

  1. Don’t invest in what you do not understand — all investments come with risk of loss but having a solid understanding of the investment made can go a long way to avoid falling victim to investment fraud. ALWAYS make sure to research and investigate first.
  2. Take care of your elders — prevent elder financial exploitation — Learn the red flags of elder financial abuse and how to make a report if activities seem suspicious. Report suspected elder financial abuse to Adult Protective Services by calling (800) 490-8505.
  3. For more education and information, consider attending an in-person or virtual event offered by the PA Department of Banking and Securities’ outreach staff in order to help sharpen understanding or financial concepts.

Financial scams have become a lucrative way for criminals to make money: In 2021 alone, the Federal Trade Commission reported $5.9 billion in losses as a result of fraud — which is a $2.4 billion increase over 2020. In the United States alone, one in ten adults will fall victim to a scam or fraud each year — not to mention the 1.3 million children who will have their identities stolen yearly. Although these facts and statistics can be intimidating there are ways to protect against becoming a victim in 2023.

The PA Department of Banking and Securities released seven recommendations within their December newsletter of popular tricks that schemers and scammers are likely to try to use to pull off a financial scam.

The department warns that individuals stay vigilant against:

  • Job Scams — If concerned about a potential job offer online make sure to research the name of the company plus the words “review,” “complaint” and “scam,” to see what results generate. Never pay in advance to get a job and do not give out personal information like credit card or bank account numbers — unless on official government forms. Like the I-9 form.
  • Be cautious and very vigilant against copycat websites — malicious emails can appear to be from legitimate retail stores. Do not click on these links. Instead, bookmark the URL for your favorite stories to ensure you are accessing the appropriate site before entering payment information.
  • Gift card scams have become very popular. If you receive a call telling you to pay a debt or some other cost via gift card, that should be an immediate red flag indicating a scam. Hangup immediately, and block the phone number. Always remember gift cards are for presents not payments.
  • Hacked account scams. A skilled scammer may use technology to make it seem like your financial institution is calling you to inform you that your card or account have been compromised. They may have details like the last four digits of your card or listing or recent purchases. Hangup immediately and call your financial institution directly to verify.
  • Bank deposit hustle. Having your checking or savings account information used for depositing mystery shopper checks or other deposits whose funds you don’t know the source of can lead to financial loss and difficulty reestablishing banking services. Protect yourself by never depositing a check from someone you do not know, and always verify the legitimacy of any check with your bank before you deposit.
  • Fake charities. Always research before giving, to verify a charity is legitimate.
  • Unbelievable prices. Think twice about an unbelievable price on hard-to-find items and items priced significantly less when compared to every major retailer. Fraudsters will tell you there are multiple people interested, but they’ll let you buy it if you send payment immediately.

According to the PA Department of Banking and Securities, by following the above tips an individual can help protect themselves and their money from scammers all year long. Always be cautious and most importantly, trust your instincts — if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

For more information, visit or call (800) 722-2657.

Full Article & Source:
PA Department of Banking recommends making money moves safely

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Hospitals in England taking care of record number of patients

by Pamela Duncan and Matthew Weaver

Across country last month, almost 14,000 people were ready to be discharged but could not be sent home or into care

Hospitals in the south-west, south-east and north-west of England are taking care of a record number of patients. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

More people could be spending the time between Christmas and new year in hospital in parts of England this year than at any time in the past decade, as NHS trusts struggle to find social care places for patients medically fit for discharge.

The latest figures for December to date show an average of 94,200 patients were in hospitals across England, more than 93,000 of them in acute settings, the highest in seven winters.

Hospitals in the south-west, south-east and north-west, the areas with the highest proportion of medically fit patients who cannot be discharged due to an acute lack of social care, are taking care of a record number of patients.

The chief executive of NHS England, Amanda Pritchard, admitted the health service could be facing the “most challenging winter in our history”, even worse than the height of the pandemic.

In a Christmas thank you message to staff she said: “I always thought that, difficult as those initial waves of Covid were, and they really were, actually it would be dealing with the ongoing pressures, that could be even tougher – that combination of recovering services whilst also dealing with continuing Covid and everything else that winter throws at us.

“We’re facing record demand for many services from GP services, to mental health services and of course, urgent and emergency care. But despite these pressures, NHS staff are rising to the challenge every single day.”

The figures, which reflect the situation in the weeks to 18 December, show the scale of the challenge facing trusts, which were asked to undertake a “rapid discharge of medically fit patients” before last week’s ambulance strikes.

The NHS is experiencing a winter of discontent, with strikes by nurses and ambulance staff and multiple pressures affecting the service, including record ambulance delays, ever growing waiting lists and thousands of beds required for flu patients, as the virus has begun circulating widely after the Covid pandemic.

Across England 13,697 patients were ready to be discharged but could not be sent home or into other care settings in the week to 18 November, according to the NHS, equivalent to around one in seven people in hospital.

In the same week last year that figure stood at 10,694, meaning the number has risen by more than a quarter (28%) according to figures provided by the NHS.

However, the south-west – where more than one in five patients are stuck in hospital despite being medically fit to leave – is particularly badly affected, with 44% more patients taking up beds than the pre-Covid average.

Almost two-thirds (64%) of the region’s 14 acute hospital trusts had higher occupancy rates than the English average in December, while close to half experienced their highest levels of occupied beds for at least the past decade.

An NHS spokesperson said: “There is no doubt the NHS is under considerable pressure – the latest figures show 19 in 20 beds occupied amid rising numbers of flu cases in hospital and that’s on top of record A&E demand, increasing staff absences and over 13,000 patients each day in hospital despite being medically fit for discharge.

“Thanks to the efforts of staff and our recent drive on this there has been a reduction in the number of delayed discharges within NHS control, and the NHS continues to work closely with social care colleagues to ensure as many patients as possible can make it home in time to spend Christmas and new year with their loved ones.”

The British Medical Association doctors’ union said patients deserved better. Prof Philip Banfield, its chair of council, said: “Christmas should be a time people can spend with their families and loved ones and the thoughts of doctors and nurses will be with those who remain in hospital.”

He added: “With years of chronic underfunding and dreadful workforce shortages across the NHS and social care, this sadly comes as no surprise. There simply isn’t the capacity in the system to efficiently discharge people who could otherwise be cared for at home or in other settings.

“In 2023 the government can’t afford to bury its head in the sand, ignore healthcare workers and expect patients to put up with the NHS, once the envy of the world, collapsing around them.”

The NHS Confederation, which represents hospitals, predicts fewer patients will be kept in beds this Christmas than the figures suggest.

Its chief executive, Matthew Taylor, said: “There will undoubtedly be patients stuck in hospital this Christmas due to unavailability of social care packages, where they could otherwise be moved back home or into a residential setting.

“Some NHS leaders are telling us today that the strikes have led to a slowdown in patients being discharged from hospital. The strikes aren’t helping, but this has been a longstanding issue.

“That said, significant and effective preparatory work went into discharging those who no longer need to be in NHS beds ahead of the strikes. Although there has been a slowdown since the strikes, we think and hope that the situation may be better than what is outlined in these latest figures.”

But Taylor said more investment in social care would be needed to help free up hospital beds in future. He said: “The NHS and social care are working closely together to improve discharge rates but this is an ongoing challenge.

“We welcomed the government’s recent extra investment in social care, but that now urgently needs to be converted into more care packages for vulnerable people who desperately need social care support. Otherwise they will continue to suffer and the NHS will continue to have too many patients occupying beds that don’t need to be stuck in hospital.”

Full Article & Source:
Hospitals in England taking care of record number of patients

Top award for learning disabilities nurse at Rampton Hospital

A learning disabilities nurse at Rampton Hospitalhas been awarded the Chief Nursing Officer gold award at the Learning Disability Symposium 2022.

By Shelley Marriott

Helen Watkinson is pictured with Adele Fox, deputy director, Forensic Services who nominated her for the award

The award is for outstanding achievements, and performance demonstrated by a nurse, in their sphere of practice, such as clinical, education, research, or leadership.

The award recognises the exceptional contribution by an individual with a distinguished career in nursing.

Hillary Garrett, deputy chief nursing officer for England, presented Helen Watkinson with her award.

Helen was recognised after being put forward for how she has made a difference to her patients’ lives in learning disability services, where she has worked since qualifying in 1989.

Tabetha Darmon, Nottinghamshire Healthcare executive director of nursing, allied health professions and quality, said: “We are extremely proud of Helen for this fantastic achievement.

"She is a fantastic learning disabilities nurse and thoroughly deserves this award.”

Helen first worked in the community and inpatient settings, supporting people to live independently, before going on to work at Nottinghamshrie Healthcare’s Rampton Hospital, near Retford.

Adele Fox, Nottinghamshire Healthcare forensic services deputy director, who nominated Helen, said: “She arrived at Rampton Hospital as a breath of fresh air as she was able to offer her skills supporting independent living in a range of different ways.

“Helen’s passion to support people to live their best lives was infectious as she started to move secure services in a different direction, enabling patients to take ownership of their own care, involve them in aspects of their lives they previously were unable to do.

“I believe she has shown how things can be done, engaged and taught staff that the impossible is possible and dedicated her life to working with people with LD”

Helen said: “I have been fortunate enough to have had a long career in nursing and I am sure that I have got far more out of this than I have put in.

“I have worked with, and continue to work with amazing people who are absolutely committed to supporting our patients to move on, progress and have richer lives.

“I am both surprised and humbled by the nomination, and always grateful to have skilled and knowledgeable nurses and multi-disciplinary professionals around me who, despite the challenges, change lives.”

Full Article & Source:
Top award for learning disabilities nurse at Rampton Hospital

Making the care environment more dementia-friendly

Pictured on a simulated train journey on Medical Ward 1 in Nenagh Hospital were Siobhan Toomey, CNS Patient Flow, Nenagh Hospital; Vimal Mathai, CNS ICPOP, Thurles; Celia Dwan, ADON, Nenagh Hospital, and Elaine O’Sullivan, CNM2 Medical Ward 1, Nenagh Hospital. This quality improvement project for people uses reminiscence therapy to improve the experience of patients with dementia in Nenagh.

Nenagh Hospital's innovative train project

A project focused on the needs of people with dementia is improving the patient experience at Nenagh Hospital.

Patients are invited to take a simulated train journey through the interactive RemPods platform, which has been in use in care homes and hospitals in the UK for a number of years.

An LCD screen displays footage of rolling countryside, pulls through tunnels and into stations along the journey, facilitating reminiscence to reduce anxiety and stimulate positive memories in older patients with cognitive impairment.

Vimal John Mathai, Clinical Nurse Specialist in the Integrated Care Programme for Older Persons in Thurles, said this quality improvement project for Nenagh met a need where acute hospital environments were not as well set up for persons with dementia as care homes.

Mr Mathai has a specialist interest in dementia and has led out on the RemPods/ Reminscence Therapy project in Nenagh.

“A quarter of all patients admitted to Nenagh Hospital have dementia. I have worked in Nenagh myself and all the team there are focused on what we can do to improve things for this older group of patients. It’s fair to say that the clinical environment in an acute hospital is not as dementia-friendly as in a nursing home, for example.

“Admission to an acute hospital can be confusing and frightening for a person with dementia. Even though they need to be in hospital, the stay might also have a negative impact on their physical, mental and cognitive abilities. How acute hospitals are designed very often doesn’t meet the needs of people with dementia. Signage can be confusing; lighting can be poor; the environment can be cluttered with inadequate space for visiting,” Mr Mathai said.


The train project in Nenagh, which has now opened on Medical Ward 1, focuses in particular on the different care needs of people with dementia. The initiative has been supported by management and ward staff, including ward manager, Elaine O’Sullivan.

Patients will board the train while having a meal, while welcoming a visitor for hospital or while waiting to be transferred or discharged. Feedback has been very positive from patients, families and staff to date, Mr Mathai said.

Through the RemPods platform, patients are encouraged to share their life experiences, memories and stories from the past. This is known as reminiscence therapy.

“Typically, a person with dementia is more able to recall things from many years ago than recent memories, so reminiscence draws on this strength. In many cases, recent memories deteriorate first for people with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. By sharing memories from the past through reminiscence therapy, people with dementia can develop more positive feelings while reducing stress and agitation,” explained Mr Mathai.

“Reminiscence therapy encourages discussion of memories that have been stored away. It helps stimulate those memories through sensory organs. This causes the brain to react differently than usual. Those reactions can impact emotions or behaviour. Studies have shown that reminiscence therapy can help older adults become more engaged.”

Commenting on the new project, Prof Michael Watts, Consultant Physician, UL Hospitals Group, said: “This is yet another example of Nenagh Hospital adapting to the challenges of providing care for the patients of UL Hospitals Group. Congratulations to Elaine, the staff on Medical 1 and to Vimal for all of their work.”

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Making the care environment more dementia-friendly

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