A hospital patient posted ‘insulting’ messages on Facebook about an elderly woman in a neighbouring bed. Helen Wells also took a photograph of the frail grandmother while they were on the same ward at Nevill Hall Hospital in Abergavenny, South Wales. Health chiefs began an inquiry after the elderly woman’s family spotted the messages on the website and made an official complaint to the hospital. Ms Wells’s Facebook page, which no longer exists, included a photograph of two white-haired patients with the caption: ‘She’s the one on the left!!!.’
Messages on the page then made fun of one of the women, saying she had ‘started boffing’ – slang for breaking wind.
The photograph shows the elderly patient with a bandage over her head.
One of her Facebook friends posted a reply saying: ‘What has she got across her head?
In another message Ms Wells said: ‘She asked me if I’d get her teeth for her, omg NO WAY!!!’
Another of Ms Wells’s friends posted: ‘Why have they put you in the old birds ward!!!! That’s just cruel.’
Relatives of the elderly patient, who has not been named, have complained to the Aneurin Bevan Health Board, which runs the 500-bed hospital.
They say she was upset that photographs were taken without her knowledge and that the comments on Facebook were ‘insulting’.
The woman, in her seventies, and her family have been supported by Welsh Assembly member Lindsay Whittle.
Mr Whittle, the member for South Wales East, said: ‘I’m appalled that the privacy of unwell patients has been breached while in hospital.
‘It is extremely insensitive of this lady and her friends to post comments of such a derogatory nature on a forum such as Facebook.
‘Older people deserve the utmost respect and this poster should not forget that she too will be old one day. It is clearly rude and offensive.’
Mr Whittle has also asked the Older Person’s Commissioner for Wales, Sarah Rochira, to investigate.
He added: ‘I hope the health board and the Older Person’s Commissioner can suggest a way forward to prevent this sort of incident happening in the future.
‘Perhaps restricting the use of mobile phones on hospital wards needs to be looked at.’
A spokesman for the health board said: ‘We can confirm we are investigating a complaint that photographs were taken in a ward setting and posted on Facebook.
‘We take any breach of confidentiality extremely seriously and took immediate action as soon as we were made aware of this concern.
‘Facebook have been contacted with a request that the photographs be taken down.’
Ms Rochira said: ‘I have been consistently clear that older people must be treated with respect and their dignity must not be violated.
‘This post shows no respect and is a sad example of the stereotypical way in which older people are often portrayed.
‘It is an invision of this older person’s privacy.’
Ms Wells was contacted via Facebook but failed to respond.