Mid Staffordshire Inquiry Announcement

This blog was contributed by Dianne Jeffrey CBE DL, Chairman of Age UK and Joint Chair of the Commission on Dignity in Care.

What happened in the Mid-Staffordshire Foundation Trust was a truly sickening and extreme example of when training, professionalism, management, and structures all individually and collectively failed very vulnerable frail patients.

Dianne Jeffrey CBE DL, Chairman of Age UK and Joint Chair of the Commission on Dignity in Care
Dianne Jeffrey CBE DL, Chairman of Age UK and Joint Chair of the Commission on Dignity in Care

Few in the health sector could claim that Mid-Staffordshire Foundation Trust was an isolated case. Most of us have heard accounts of similar failures in care in our local hospitals or care homes, some relating to individual wards, others more widespread.

Today is a watershed moment for the NHS: 31 months after the  Francis report was commissioned the final report was published on the 6th February. The report makes 290 recommendations on how to improve the system and we must once and for all take this opportunity to make the deep and lasting changes that are required. A ‘sticking plaster solution’ is not going to be acceptable and will certainly not be enough to reassure millions of older people and their families.

The initial inquiry into Mid-Staffordshire marked a crucial moment in exposing undignified and poor care and was a major factor in the decision by Age UK, the NHS Confederation and the Local Government Association to establish the Dignity in Care Commission. Our remit was to make sure that our older people are treated in a way that not only helps them to get better but that also values their individual dignity.

It is, of course, important for us to remember that there is a huge amount of good care delivered by caring staff across the system. But we urgently need a comprehensive plan of action to transform culture and practice, as well as policy and systems, to ensure good care is delivered to every patient every time.

This is what we heard throughout the Commission’s work too. We listened to  hours of evidence from both professionals and families about poor care they had experienced but crucially also about how good care can be encouraged and supported.

Our final report, Delivering Dignity, sets out a blueprint that will help the NHS and care homes make the real and enduring changes needed to consistently deliver dignified and compassionate care.

However there must be true accountability and leadership to drive change – without that, what hope can we have for the future of the NHS and social care system?

There are also wider and uncomfortable questions for us all. At some level are the events at Mid-Staffordshire due to our sometimes negative societal attitude to older people? Have we collectively stopped listening as attentively to the needs of our oldest members as we should?

Our society is ageing and clearly the NHS is struggling to adapt. Around 65% of people admitted to hospital are over 65. Yet despite the growing number of older service users, geriatric medicine is still treated as a niche subject by many medical schools and it is possible to qualify as a doctor having experienced only around 30 hours of bed-side geriatric medicine. We must ensure that better initial and follow-up training happen from now on.

So much about providing dignified care is not to be found in text books or lecture halls but in seeing beyond a medical condition to an older person’s humanity and treating them as we would wish to be treated. It is about making sure that compassion and empathy are part of care at every level of hierarchy and in every situation. It is often about something as simple as placing a glass of water just that little bit closer so that a patient can actually reach it.

In partnership with the NHS Confederation and the Local Government Group, Age UK launched the Dignity in Care Commission to drive improvements in the levels of care provided to older people in hospitals and care homes. Find out more about the work of the Dignity in Care Commission 

Read  Age UK’s response to the Francis Report

Author: Age UK

Age UK is dedicated to helping everyone make the most of later life. In the UK we help more than 7 million older people each year by providing advice, combating loneliness and enabling independence. Locally, we work as part of a network of independent charities which includes Age UK, Age Cymru, Age NI and Age Scotland and over 150 local Age UK partners in England and Wales.

8 thoughts on “Mid Staffordshire Inquiry Announcement”

  1. What is also needed is Law to punish any person,organisation,care home or Care in the Community Service including Adult Social Services, where a clear case of neglect and failing to honour “duty of care” is found.

    Long winded sanctimonious and endless platitudes have been accepted for far too long.

    This recent case of an old woman dying,in her own home, from starvation and dehydration,as a result of a failure by the “system” is a disgrace to a so called advanced country.

    Why was this woman not registered with Age Concern UK?

    I dealt with an elderly resident here some few years ago,and have records to show,when it was impossible to get Age Concern (as it then was known) to do anything more than send a Pop In Lady round to distribute leaflets.

    This in spite of the fact that the flat was dirty,that the woman was incontinent and had three times nearly set the place on fire. In the end and following my own actions and that of the fire service action was taken by Social Services .

    The woman is now in a decent care home and has just celebrated her 100th birthday

    Age UK needs to get the Law on its side so that it can act when the need is shown. Age UK should also be allowed to check hospitals ,follow up the worries of relatives.

  2. If Age UK ‘care’ so much about the elderly, why are you still endorsing the Liverpool Care Pathway????????????????????????????

  3. ….’It is often about something as simple as placing a glass of water just that little bit closer so that a patient can actually reach it.’……or not witholding all their drugs, food and hydration, and terminally sedating them on the LCP when they arent’ even terminally ill I imagine?

  4. I loved your Blog Dianne, very relevant, important and raised a very crucial point, on how to learn from such mishaps and failure? How to transform NHS and care homes to make them more compassionate and effective? I think the solution lies with in this blog, compassionate care by the staff should be encouraged and that there should be accountability at all levels. Though easier said but requires some genuine willingness and solid leadership at the top levels.

    Its true that we are an aging society so we need to come in terms with this reality and make sure that our elders are treated with love and compassion. We must not forget, in the coming years, we will be joining their ranks. So lets make it happen for our selfish reasons.

    1. Luckily the Chief Nursing Officer for England agrees, and regards this as a call to action. Jane Cummings wants compassionate behviour to be part of nursing recruitment and part of ongoing professional appraisal. The Dignity Commission will be offering help and support as a means of spreading excellent practice which already exists in so many wards, hospitals and care homes. We need to get it right everytime, for everyone.

  5. Whilst I have asked some serious questions to Age UK I know that the powers theyhave are limited and that,at the end of the day,they are not a Government body,but a n organisation based to a great extent on volunteers and chaitable donations.

    What I feel, and again I say ,that they should lobby for equal powers with the Quality Care Commission whe they would have more clout in Government.

    The Liverpool Care Pathway I note has now been closed by AGe UK for further comments.

    What does this tell us?

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