STAFF shortages have been blamed after an elderly man recovering from a severe stroke was ‘strangled and punched’ repeatedly by another hospital patient who required “enhanced observation.”

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has launched a Significant Clinical Incident (SCI) review - the most serious inquiry of its kind - following the incident in ward 56 of the Langland’s unit at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

While the health board say nurses were quick to intervene the family say the elderly man was left with significant bruising around his neck, torso and legs, which they say suggests it was a sustained attack.

It is understood another patient alerted staff by pressing his buzzer and was left traumatised by the incident, which happened on Thursday, August 8. Police were called to the ward but the patient is said to have told hospital staff that he did not wish to press charges.

Read more: Inquiry launched after patient is 'viciously attacked' in elderly ward 

A family member claims the patient who carried out he attack was being treated in a private room but had been allowed into the ward to watch TV prior to the incident.

She said: “The decision the nurse made that night directly resulted in my grandpa’s assault.

“I don’t care if they are overworked and understaffed - they deserve to be penalised for what they allowed and in my eyes caused, to happen.

“The whole experience has been heartbreaking for the entire family. He’s already been through so much struggling to recover from a severe stroke.”

The health board say staffing at the unit is reviewed three times a day and nurses are trained to deal with challenging behaviour from elderly patients who may be suffering from dementia or delirium.

An NHS source blamed the incident on changes to bank staff shift patterns which he said has left wards in the Langlands unit understaffed.

Read more: Nurse struck off after dragging elderly patient by ankles in hospital corridor 

He said: “The very next night ward 55, which is on the same floor as ward 56, was left severely short-staffed for a period of time due to the policy of NHSGGC shortening the shifts of bank-nurses in June 2018.

“It means bank staff, including staff nurses, regularly come onto the ward later than the permanent staff and so can miss out on the verbal handover and so miss out on vital information regarding the care of the patients.

“This was the case at Ward 55 between 7am and 7.15am on Friday morning at the end of the night-shift when there were only two staff looking after 30 patients because the three bank staff on duty all finished their shift at 7 am.”

Professor June Andrews, a former nurse and expert in dementia care, courted controversy in 2015 by suggesting that family should take on more of the care of older patients to ease pressure on staff and prevent malnutrition or harmful incidents happening to relatives.

She said: “At the time I was heavily criticised for implying that families should make up for shortages in the NHS, but what should we do?

“We know there is a world shortage of nurses. We know there is an ageing population. We know that health services struggle to keep up with the demand. We know that families and councils don’t have enough money to take people swiftly from hospital to care homes when medical treatment has stopped.

“If it is your own family and there are enough family and friends to make it possible, maximum visiting and support is a really good idea.”

Read more: Glasgow families urged to get power of attorney arranged for elderly relatives 

A spokeswoman for NHSGGC said: “Patient safety is our top priority and we are very sorry that someone was hurt whilst in our care.

“We are taking this matter very seriously and have launched a Significant Clinical Incident (SCI) review which will fully investigate the circumstances.

“Because of the nature of their illness for example delirium, some of our older patients do display unpredictable behaviour.

“All staff working on these wards are given training to manage complex and challenging situations in a safe, compassionate and person centred way.

“Within our older people’s service, our staffing requirements are reviewed every day and again three times daily at the site huddles.

“NHSGGC have been actively recruiting to Medicine for the Elderly, including the Langlands Unit and have recently appointed 32 newly qualified nurses in this area.”