Still Hungry to be Heard – CQC Dignity and Nutrition Report

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

5 thoughts on “Still Hungry to be Heard – CQC Dignity and Nutrition Report”

  1. Most nurse are university graduates and feel that actually caring for the elderly is too basic for their qualifications, I’ve seen that for myself, the bells are ringing for help and are ignored.

    Have the watch dogs checked the welsh cottage hospital??

  2. It shouldn’t matter whether nurses are university graduates or not. The most basic criteria for nursing is ‘caring’ – it’s as simple as that. If these people don’t care for whatever reason then nursing is doomed. It is not rocket science to know that an elderly patient needs the toilet or needs cleaning with dignity or needs assistance with feeding or just needs a kind word and compassion. Any nurse of any grade should be capable of that. There can be no excuse for neglect of the elderly or indeed any other patient.

    And it’s not because they don’t have time. In the 1950/60’s nurses had a far more extensive role than they have today. Nightingale wards with around 40 to 50 patients were common. There was very little disposable facilities – bed pans and urinals for instance had to be cleaned by nurses in the sluice. Instruments and glass syringes had to be cleaned and sterilised on the wards. Patients’ temperatures, pulses and blood pressures all done without assistance of a high tech easy to use machine. Sisters or Charge Nurses were proud of their wards and supervised their staff efficiently. I’m afraid too many bad nurses just reflect the ignorant society in which we live today.

    I wonder what sort of outcry there would be if the word ‘elderly’ was replaced by the word ‘children’!

  3. I think it’s a shame that people are using the CQC report to criticise nurses en masse. My Ward was inspected as part of this report and we fulfilled all criteria and received a very good report . We work very hard in difficult circumstances to ensure that needs are met – being short staffed in the NHS is not an excuse, it is a reality. Many vacancies are frozen due to public sector cuts and our nurse to patient ratio is constantly being eroded. Despite receiving a very good report which was testament to the work of all the nursing staff, the local press did not even acknowledge it. If we had fallen down on any criteria, we would have been front page news.
    I think there is a tendency for good practice to be ignored so please do not assume that all nurses are the same and look for the good, as well as quite rightly informing of the bad.
    One issue that needs to be addressed is that elderly care wards have less intense nurse to patient ratios – it is a scandal that these wards remain understaffed whereas acute short stay areas always have sufficient personnel. A recent RCN report confirms this – maybe this needs to be taken up by the focus groups.

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