Age UK launches Dignity in Care Partnership

Looking back over the years, there has been no shortage of reports, inquiries and commissions examining instances where older people have failed to receive proper dignity of care. The Health Ombudsman report earlier this year, for example, provided a catalogue of appalling examples of  patients who had their basic needs neglected, becoming malnourished and dehydrated, being left in pain, or receiving inadequate assistance with toileting and personal care.  This report made the severity and scale of the problem we are facing crystal clear.

But what has, we believe, been missing up to now is an indepth look at how we as a sector make the changes to ensure that no older person in future needs to endure degrading or undignified care. The  new Dignity in Care Partnership, launching today at Age UK’s Improving Essential Care in Hospital event is about moving on to the next stage and working out what we need to do as a sector to make progress on this problem at a grassroots level.  This initiative brings together the NHS Confederation, Local Government Group and Age UK to work in close collaboration with professionals and healthcare leaders to improve dignity in care.

We know policy at a national level, such as the National Service Framework and guidance from the Royal Colleges, has clearly focused on meeting aspirations of older people, improving the care provided and generally moving things in the right direction.  Yet this guidance is not always consistently transferred into practice on the ground and we need to know why.

To do this, we must ask some difficult questions and shine a light into awkward corners of this thorny issue. What are the root cases of the failure to provide appropriate levels of care to older people? We also need to hear what, as the largest group of users of the health service, are the aspirations of older people and their families in terms of care provided.

The Dignity in Care Partnership is starting out by establishing a commission to examine some of these issues. However, we are clear that this is just a first step. After answers we need action.

I cannot pretend this will be an easy process: we need an honest, warts and all approach if this process is to be effective.  But it isn’t about pointing the finger at the health and care sector, health professionals or individuals. Instead, to deliver real and lasting improvements,  it is vitally important that everyone comes together to discuss how to address practical problems, tackle barriers and change the way we view caring for older people. Patients, professionals and providers must reach a consensus on the underpinning causes of poor care and ‘own’ responsibility for improving their experiences at every level. We also need to establish what really works by identifying good practice examples across the health and social care system.

Everyone can play their part: we are calling for written evidence via the NHS Confederation website and will also be carrying out a series of oral hearings to collectively develop a series of recommendations to be published in a report in Spring 2012.  Another report it may be, but I believe it has the capacity to start the journey towards making dignity in care a reality for every older person.

4 thoughts on “Age UK launches Dignity in Care Partnership”

  1. So refreshing to hear about a study that will be looking at grassroots level upwards, rather than top down.
    Everyone agrees that older people deserve to be cared for with dignity and respect. We all want to see it happen.
    Lets hope the Dignity in Care Partnership starts a conversation which leads to some real action resulting in a vastly improved level of care given.

  2. Dignity is not just about being properly addressed by the name you wish to be known as, and being treated politely by staff. It is also about being able to maintain hygiene and personal appearance, proper communication about what is being done to/for you, adequate pain control, toilet access, privacy, in fact everything concerning your care and comfort whilst in hospital or other residential settings. So, for example, leaving water just out of reach, or a meal which you cannot eat – for whatever reason – are failures to recognise you as a person no matter what your age, and these failings should no longer be tolerated in a civilised society. It is shameful. The Partnership hopes to overturn the prevailing lack of compassion and promote a caring atmosphere in which older people are cherished and respected.

  3. A change has got to be made to how local authorities deliver care to the older community and they have to look to new technology and tried and tested caring strategies working in partnership.

    The general public and councils are unaware or unwilling to embrace schemes such as telecare whether through the use of pendants, personal alarms and integrated home care . All these enable older people to remain independent in their own homes. Care organisations are co-operating to provide complete packages that needn’t force the older person into a home or to mortgage their own property to pay for it!

    If dignity is the aim of this new initiative then the ability for older people to stay put, still lead independant and fulfilling lives with a reliable care service there as a safety net is vital. We run a personal and friendly service that also makes older people feel less isolated and appreciated.

    Government and councils have got to start thinking of new ways to operate as the old ways clearly aren’t working or no longer fit the purpose they were originally designed for

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