Today, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) published the Dignity and nutrition for older people report, summarising spot check inspections of 100 acute hospitals in England. The inspectors looked at the essential standards of dignity and nutrition on wards caring for older people. They found, that for nutrition, action needed to be taken in 49 of the 100 hospitals.
Age UK has worked with the CQC to support this inspection process – and we are shocked by the outcome. Perhaps the most disturbing thing about the CQC report is that it shows that this situation is not inevitable. Some hospitals are clearly getting things right. But what about the others?
We have previously identified ‘seven steps’ of good practice which hospital staff need to follow, and we know that in some places these are making a real difference.
The CQC report identifies a further three factors – leadership, staff attitudes and resources. In line with this, we think the time has come to bring external pressure to bear on hospital managers to drive improvements. So we want the government to compel all hospitals to publish data showing malnutrition rates on their wards in a form the public can understand.
The CQC inspections have shown that there is something systemically wrong in some hospitals and hospital managers must take action to change this. A requirement to publish the numbers on malnutrition would act as a powerful driver of change for hospital managers, who can currently hide behind the fact that malnutrition is a complex issue and treat each problem as an isolated case.
Age UK hears regularly from the relatives and carers of older people who have not been supported to eat properly in hospital. This is why we are running the Hungry to be Heard campaign to challenge the scandal of people in later life becoming malnourished in hospitals. This is Irene’s story:
Irene, 89, was admitted to hospital in November 2010. She was in hospital for three months and during that time lost an immense amount of weight, so much that she was unrecognisable by the time she left. Irene’s grand-daughter Morgan said: ‘When my sister or I were with her during mealtimes we often witnessed the food trolley coming round and staff asking her if she was hungry, to which she replied “no”. The staff would not question this refusal and just move on to the next patient. So she often missed her dinner. When we weren’t there, nobody seemed to encourage her to eat or asked why she did not want the food.’
But Irene’s is not an isolated case. This week Age UK campaigners, including Irene’s grand-daughter Morgan, took more than two thousand postcards to the Department of Health, calling for the government to require hospitals to publish the numbers.
– Find out more about Age UK’s Hungry to be Heard campaign