Inquiries into quality of care for elderly patients

Sans Everything

In response to the 1967 publication Sans Everything by campaigner Barbara Robb from the group Aid to the Elderly in Government Institutions, the government appointed independent committees to investigate allegations of suffering at seven hospitals.

The book consisted of accounts of random and mindless cruelty and fraud. It was suggested the persistent staff shortages could lead to the recruitment of nurses who came to regard 'defenceless patients merely as sources of disagreeable hard work for themselves'.

'No substance whatever in the allegations'

The independent committees made some criticisms of conditions, but they did not find evidence of the level of failings suggested by Robb.

For example, with regard to allegations made against St Lawrence's Hospital, Bodmin, the committee concluded that 'we have no hesitation in saying that in our unanimous opinion there is no substance whatever in the allegations of cruelty by staff to patients as alleged in this article'.

However, the committee findings were heavily edited and the general tone was to dismiss accusations as isolated incidents or malicious complaints.

For example, one report described a whistle-blower as 'a most unreliable witness, whose judgment was manifestly unsound' and 'a rather solitary person with a somewhat simple mind', and used further disparaging remarks to invalidate her testimony, suggesting a less than impartial approach.


Department of Health and Social Security.
Allegations Concerning the Care of Elderly Patients in Certain Hospitals.
HMSO; 1968.