nurseTwo healthcare assistants who abused elderly female patients on admission at a health facility in the United Kingdom have been sentenced to a total of 17 months’ imprisonment by the London Snaresbrook Crown Court.

Akosua Sakyiwaa, 38, a Ghanaian, was convicted on four counts of ill-treatment and neglect of patients between February and April last year and was jailed 12 months, while Sharmila Gunda, 36, a carer at the same hospital, who was found guilty on two counts of neglect and assault by beating an elderly patient in her care, will spend five months in jail.

Delivering the sentence, the presiding Judge, Timothy Lamb, QC, said the women’s actions had “damaged patient trust” in the national health service (NHS).

“In short, by your offending you have let down your colleagues, you have damaged patient trust and you have undermined the quality of care for the elderly and vulnerable at Whipps Cross,” he said.

The two women were charged following a Metropolitan Police inquiry into the hospital after a student nurse acted as a whistleblower.

The women would physically and verbally abuse patients, often telling them to shut up, as well as handling them in a rough and aggressive manner, police said.

Sakyiwaa and Gunda, of Ilford, were responsible for looking after elderly female patients with various physical and mental conditions, including dementia.

One of the maltreated patients, June Evans, who is wheelchair bound, was the only surviving patient well enough to go to court to give evidence against them.

The other patients are too ill and suffer from dementia.

In a statement read to the court, Ms Evans 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.”

She 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.’”

Sakyiwaa was found guilty of holding a bed sheet over the head of another patient, 87-year-old Joan Massett, and telling her she was dead.

She pushed Ms Massett’s breasts in another incident and forcefully twisted her mouth which was both “demeaning and completely unnecessary”.

Sakyiwaa shouted at a third patient, 88-year-old Elizabeth Toussaint, to force her to sit in a chair and slapped a fourth, Louise Hodges, 92, after cleaning her, the court was told.

Jurors heard that the healthcare assistants were arrested after a student nurse, Lucy Brown, whistleblew on them following a placement on the ward last spring.

The court heard the ward had since closed down following a Metropolitan Police investigation into alleged abuse.

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

In a statement, the trust said: “We apologise unreservedly to the patients of Beech Ward and their families for the indefensible failings in their treatment during their time in our care.”

“There can be no place under any circumstances for such behaviour in our trust or in the wider NHS,” it added.

According to the statement, following an internal disciplinary investigation, the convicts had their contracts of employment terminated.

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