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Elderly hospital patients treated without dignity

Health watchdog findings described as ‘truly shocking’

Jo Carlowe

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Elderly patients in hospital are being treated without dignity and without adequate access to food and drink.

These are the findings of the health watchdog The Care Quality Commission (CQC) which today publishes the first 12 reports from an inspection programme examing whether elderly people receive essential standards of care in hospitals in England.

The programme focuses on whether people are treated with dignity and respect, and whether they get food and drink that meets their needs. A national report into the findings of the programme will be published in September.

These first 12 inspection reports identify three hospitals as failing to meet the essential standards required by law; Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, The Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust and Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust. Less serious concerns were identified in a further three hospitals, with the remaining six found to be meeting essential standards.

Recurring concerns included patients not getting the assistance they need to eat, not having their nutritional needs assessed and monitored and not being given enough to drink – in some cases with water being left out of their reach. In addition, the failing hospitals did not involve patients in their own care, nor did staff treat them with respect – examples included spoon-feeding patients without engaging with them, discussing personal patient information in open areas and speaking to people in a condescending or dismissive way.

Commenting on the publication of the first reports, Jo Williams, Chair of the CQC, said: “Many of these reports describe people being ‘cared for’ in the truest sense. Sadly, however, some detail omissions which add up to a failure to meet basic needs - people not spoken to with respect, not treated with dignity, and not receiving the help they need to eat or drink. These are not difficult things to get right – and the fact that staff are still failing to do so is a real concern.

“I will be writing to the Chair of every hospital where this inspection programme has identified poor care to ask what they plan to do address these issues. The key elements that every hospital must have in place are a compassionate staff culture which is driven by strong leadership and supported by good systems.”

The Royal College of Nursing has described the findings of the report as ‘truly shocking’.

RCN chief executive Dr Peter Carter said: “We are clear that there is simply no excuse for failing to treat patients with the respect and dignity they deserve. All nurses, doctors and allied health professionals should be able to meet the physical, social and emotional needs of patients and their families. We know that there are relatively small pockets of the NHS that do not deliver good nursing care and this is unacceptable. It is vital that both the three trusts identified as failing to meet essential standards, and the Nursing and Midwifery Council as the regulator, now act on these findings as a matter of the utmost urgency.”

How would qualify the communication between primary and secondary care services? (See OnMedica News 20/04)

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