05/12/2012 04:55 GMT

Ann Clwyd Says Husband 'Died Like A Battery Hen' In NHS

A senior Labour MP has described how her husband died like a "battery hen" in hospital, telling The Guardian she feared "a normalisation of cruelty" was now epidemic among NHS nurses.

Ann Clwyd, who served as Tony Blair's human rights envoy to Iraq, told the BBC World At One that her husband Owen Roberts was treated with "coldness, resentment, indifference and contempt" at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.

Ann Clwyd said her husband was treated with 'contempt' as he lay dying

Her voice broke with emotion as she described how she arrived on the ward to see find her husband cold and distressed, with just two thin sheets to cover him.

"He is 6ft 2ins, he was squashed up against the iron bars of the bed," she told the programme.

"He had an oxygen mask that didn't fit his face, his eye was infected and, because the air from the oxygen was blowing into it, his lips were very dry and I used my own Lypsil to try and moisten them. There were no nurses around."

Her husband was a TV director and producer and suffered from multiple sclerosis. He died from hospital-acquired pneumonia on October 23 after being on the ward for 10 days.

In a separate interview with The Guardian, Clwyd said on the day her husband died she stopped one of the few nurses to ask why he wasn't in intensive care, only to be told there were others "much worse than him."

Ms Clwyd said the treatment of patients was callous, telling the World At One: "At eight o'clock, just before he died, all the lights in the ward went on and somebody shouted 'Anybody for breakfast?'.

"It was obviously totally inappropriate when they knew somebody was dying in that ward. I really do feel he died of cold and he died from people who didn't care.

"I can't believe anybody calling themselves a nurse could let that happen. Nobody should have to die in conditions like I saw my husband die in."

Ms Clwyd said she was speaking out so that other people should not have to suffer in the same way. She told the programme "It's uncomfortable speaking out and I don't like it but if I can't get anybody to listen to me, how do other people manage?"

"I think it is just too commonplace, this kind of thing," she said.

Her emotive account provoked reaction on Twitter, with one doctor tweeting: "Fact that Ann Clwyd asked - why isn't he in ITU? - suggests NO communication".

However one Twitter user responded: "This happened in my local hosp. Horrendous for them both. But ‘coldness, resentment, contempt’ - not something I've seen."

In a statement to the programme, the hospital's executive director of nursing, Ruth Walker, said they had offered to meet Ms Clwyd so that a formal investigation into what happened could be launched.

"We recognise how distressing it is when family members have cause to raise significant concerns about the quality of care their loved one received whilst also coping with bereavement. We take such matters extremely seriously," she said.

"We will not tolerate poor care which is why it is so important that each incident is fully investigated so that we can drive up standards and provide patients and their families with the quality of care they need and deserve."

Age Cymru said they don't believe Ms Clwyd's experience is a one off, with policy advisor Amy Clifton telling the BBC: "We too often hear reports from older people and their families across Wales of patients in hospital receiving poor standards of care."

Her comments came as a scheme to judge nurses on how compassionate they are towards patients was launched under a new strategy to improve care within the health service.

The quality of NHS care is likely to be put under the spotlight on Wednesday as Cameron was rebuked for failing to live up to his pledge to increase NHS spending every year, a central plank of the prime minister’s 2010 election campaign.