Older people deserve better care in hospitals and care homes

This blog was contributed by Dianne Jeffrey, Chairman of Age UK and Co-chair of the  Commission on Improving Dignity in Care. 

Dianne Jeffrey CBE DL, Chairman of Age UK and Co-chair of the Commission on Dignity in Care

Dianne Jeffrey CBE DL, Chairman of Age UK and Co-chair of the Commission on Dignity in Care

I have always been clear that dignity and compassion must be at the heart of our health and care system.

This is why, in June last year, the Commission on Improving Dignity in Care for Older People (made up of, Age UK, NHS Confederation and the LGA) published its report, Delivering Dignity. It was the culmination of hundreds of written submissions and oral contributions from experts, clinicians and patients. In this report we set out a raft of recommendations for changing the way we design and deliver care as the numbers of older people who need care continues to grow.

Since publishing this report there have been a welcome flurry of other publications and initiatives – all aimed at improving the quality of care for patients and especially vulnerable people. These have included the Berwick report, Ann Clwyd and Tricia Hart’s report on patient complaints and the Francis report.

Of course, Robert Francis recognised the importance of dignity and compassion, and we were pleased to see that he referenced ‘Delivering Dignity’ in his report, in the context of focussing on the need for culture change. While we are pleased about our report’s impact so far, it was never intended to become another well-meaning document gathering dust on a shelf. Our three organisations continue to work together through the Dignity Partnership, to implement our recommendations and help ensure older people get the dignified care they deserve. Most recently we received funding from the Burdett Trust for Nursing for a project which will explore how we can better enable and empower nurses to listen to older patients’ feedback and act on what they hear.

Later this month all eyes will be on the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, as he updates MPs on the Government’s implementation of the recommendations of the Francis report. While progress might have been made, it’s clear that more needs to be done to help ensure the tragic failings in care we saw at Mid Staffordshire and elsewhere become a thing of the past.

So what do we want to hear from the Secretary of State? We expect Mr Hunt to talk about changes to the regulation of NHS trusts, how they will be inspected and rated. However, while improvements to regulation as a mechanism for improving quality are welcome, we also need to recognise the limits of this approach. Of course regulation has a key role to play in improving standards, but on its own it can’t prevent or tackle poor care.

We need to see a fundamental change in how we view and care for older people across all parts of the health and care service. This must remain a top priority for the Government, NHS organisations and in social care.  Compassionate care needs to be rooted in the staff who care for our loved ones and organisations should not rely on regulators or Ministers to pull levers to improve care.

Find out more about the work of the Commission on Improving Dignity in Care

Read more about home and care on the Age UK website

2 responses to “Older people deserve better care in hospitals and care homes

  1. Australia is just starting to realise that ageing will be a key future challenge, yet our new government has downgraded the Minister for Ageing to non-Cabinet status. Patricia Edgar’s new book ‘In Praise of Ageing’ (Text Publishing, 2013) has raised many key issues about positive ageing and is stirring up media interest – less interventionist and drug-related health treatment, seeing older people as ‘productive’ not dependent, encouraging healthy living and a cultural shift towards seeing the ‘second half of life’ as full of potential. The St James Ethics Centre is preparing a three-year project on the ‘ethics of ageing’ which will challenge the language and assumptions which lie behind our negative approach to ageing.

  2. Great post Dianne. In the last year we have seen so many incidents on the mainstream news about the horrendous care the elderly have been receiving. It is absolutely wrong. It makes you think how many of these incidents happen everyday with no one knowing.

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