Today, Age UK has been in the media commenting on the standards of care older people receive in hospital.
Last year, through our Hungry to be Heard campaign, we called on the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to undertake a comprehensive review of hospital mealtimes. In response to this, and pressure from other organisations, the CQC has undertaken spot checks in 100 hospitals to find out if older people are treated with dignity and respect, and whether they get food and drink which meets their needs.
Today the CQC released reports for 12 hospitals which were inspected and the results are not surprising – some hospitals were performing well, while a quarter were failing to meet their legal requirements around dignity and nutrition.
The anecdotal evidence from the hospitals failing to meet their legal duties is shocking and unacceptable within some cases medical staff had to prescribe water to ensure patients are hydrated and patients received treatment with little or no communication as to what was happening and why.
In other hospitals excellent care was observed: nurses ensured that patients’ dignity was maintained and ward staff recognised that nutrition and hydration are essential parts of a patient’s recovery.
So, why the disparity between hospitals? The answer to this question is not easy, but includes a range of factors ; detailed training, strong leadership, the culture of the organisation and staffing levels.
Age UK has been campaigning for improved hospital mealtimes for the past 5 years and it saddens me that we still have so far to go to ensure all older people get the food and help they need during hospital mealtimes. We are calling for all wards to implement our seven steps, to ensure hospital mealtimes are a pleasantand healthy experience for all.