Dignity standards still lacking in hospitals

A new report out this week shows that older patients face a “widespread and systematic” pattern of inadequate care in hospitals.

The report from the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at the LSE, shows one million older people in later life are affected by poor or inconsistent standards of dignity and 1 in 3 people who needed help with eating in hospitals were not consistently receiving it.

The research has broken down data in the Adult Inpatient Survey for 2012 to provide this fresh, detailed picture of older people’s experiences during hospital stays. The report has developed a new approach to analysing the results, one that looks at the relative risks of receiving poor care as well as the overall numbers of people affected. And the results are deeply concerning.

The key findings show that amongst older people, poor or inconsistent care was more likely to be experienced by those aged over 80 and women. Risks were also higher for those with a long-standing illness or disability, such as deafness or blindness, those who were in hospital for a long period of time or those who stayed in three or more wards.

This is particularly worrying, as it seems the more vulnerable the older person is, the more at risk they are. Indeed, for an individual who experiences all these risk factors the chances of receiving poor or inconsistent care are estimate to be over 90 per cent.

The findings underscore just how big the challenge is in ensuring every older person receives the dignity they deserve in hospital.

Although more recent survey results show the NHS has seen an improvement in the headline figures of the number of people stating that they were treated with dignity, there is still clearly a long way to go.

Hospitals will need to redouble their efforts in improving dignity standards to ensure every older person is treated with dignity and has the support they need on every occasion.

Looking forward, the report says there should be a renewed focus on implementing the fundamental standards concerning dignity and nutrition introduced following the Francis Inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

It is also recommended that in hospitals where poor quality care is a cause for concern, the care of “high risk” patients – like older people with multiple conditions – should be monitored separately.

Turning this situation around should definitely be a top priority and no hospital can afford to be complacent.

Read Older people’s experiences of dignity and nutrition during hospital stays summary report 

Read consumer advice about health and wellbeing on the Age UK website 

2 responses to “Dignity standards still lacking in hospitals

  1. I will be 89 in a couple of months and had a hip replacement operation in September 2013. Despite pain in my joints due to arthritis I had been active until the beginning of 2013, but needed the op. as my hip kept giving way and making walking very difficult. Until then I used to walk everywhere and was very fit for my age. The operation was a success and I am so grateful to the surgeon and doctors. However, the aftercare meant that my stay in the ward afterwards was purgatory and by the time I returned home my immune system was so low that I had to take antibiotics for two viruses (cellulitis and an ear infection). I had not expected to be so weak and helpless after the op. Just making up a bed for myself when I was returned home left me exhausted. My body clock was all over the place and it took me ages to get back to normal, both with sleeping and eating. While in hospital I found there was no pain from the op. so I was very lucky to have such a marvellous surgeon and staff. However, a few of the nurses seemed to be too busy to care. I tried to keep a low profile and not be a nuisance, but that did not help. One night I needed to use the lavatory. I got up quietly and made my way there and back with a zimmer aid. However, on the way back a nurse in charge came charging out and said ‘Do YOU know what time it is? It’s 2 a.m. !’ I did not reply, but wondered what was I supposed to do anyway? Another time I was directed to a washroom by a nurse, yet when I went to use that room the second time another nurse ticked me off for ‘keeping another patient waiting’ by using ‘the wrong washroom!’ I never answered back as I realised I doubt I could do their difficult job. I think that a few of the nurses were so were so rushed that they were ‘burnt out’ so it was not their fault. There was kindness, such as nurses bringing me extra blankets and tucking me in when I was cold. However, several times I got ‘ticked off’ by nurses for no reason, as though I was a naughty child. For instance, one kind health assistant loaned me a pillow slip to cover my eyes so I could get some sleep, but when another night I asked a senior nurse could I borrow one as I could not sleep, she snapped, ‘If you were really tired you could sleep’ – so no pillow slip – no sleep that night! Yet this was the nurse who, soon after my operation, kindly asked me ‘Would you like some stronger pain-killers?’ I was nauseous the whole time I was there (5-6 days) so although the meals provided were good I could not face food or even a cup of coffee or tea. I managed a couple of bowls of soup and forced myself to eat a piece of toast and an occasional half a cup of milk. I needed to survive as I am the sole Carer of a loved one. I could not sleep because of the bright lights and the noise such as the beeps of patients pressing their buzzers for assistance. Even when returning home in the ambulance I was bilious and ill, but could not be sick as my stomach was empty. Ancillary staff, ambulance people, physiotherapists etc., etc. were all outstanding and extremely helpful. I believe that any more cutbacks in nursing staff would prove disastrous. If you have to be admitted to hospital, remember to take a sleeping mask and ear-plugs with you – AND don’t be old!

  2. It’s not only in hospitals that the old and vulnerable receive poor and /or inadequate nursing . A team of District Nurses were found guilty of causing neglect which led to unnecessary suffering , and consequently the death of a vulnerable adult with Multiple Sclerosis.

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