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Dignity as important as finance in elderly care

Commissioners must prioritise dignity when setting contracts for NHS care

Louise Prime

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Commissioners should prioritise the dignity of elderly patients when setting contracts with providers of NHS-funded services, urge the authors of a report into care of the elderly. They say that health commissioners don’t sufficiently address the issue of dignity in care even though the National Quality Board of the NHS identifies experience, effectiveness and safety as the three pillars of quality.

The report Delivering Dignity says that primary care trusts and clinical commissioning groups must invest as much energy in securing dignity for the elderly as they expend on assessing financial performance. It says that contracts for NHS care should set out expected standards of dignity, and insists: “Primary care trusts and clinical commissioning groups must consider the performance of hospitals in the delivery of dignity standards at their own board meetings and take action where standards fall below those set out in a contract.”

PCTs and CCGs should satisfy themselves that providers of NHS care have put in place ‘robust measures to capture feedback on dignity in hospitals’ from older patients and their families, and that hospital leaders act upon that feedback, write the authors.

NHS Confederation chair, Sir Keith Pearson, said the Commission on Improving Dignity in Care – whose members include a GPwSI older people in County Durham & Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Elizabeth Kendrick, and the former chief executive of Berkshire PCT, Lise Llewellyn – was set up because “in too many cases, people have been let down when they were vulnerable and most needed help. Older people and their loved ones deserve so much better.”

Sir Keith asked for “a major cultural shift in the way everyone thinks about dignity” right across the board, and urged commissioners to respond to the report with practical measures to improve dignity in care for the elderly. He said: “We have to do more to listen and respond to patients, residents and their families so we learn from their feedback and continually improve care.

“The last thing we want is to produce a report that generates more noise than practical action. It is absolutely clear that we all need to work together to improve dignity in care and earn back public confidence.”

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