Don't call elderly patients 'dear': NHS staff 'must go' if they don't treat patients with more respect, warns health chief
Terms including 'dear' and 'bed-blocker' should be banned, finds report
Careful: Doctors and nurses are being urged to be more respectful when addressing elderly patients
Doctors and nurses who fail to treat elderly patients with dignity should be sacked, according to the author of a major new report into NHS care.
Sir Keith Pearson, the co-chair of the Commission on Improving Dignity in Care, said compassion should be at the centre of hospital treatment.
He said staff should only be taken on if they held this core value.
Speaking to the BBC's Today Programme, he added: 'If there is evidence that someone is not providing the kind of dignified care that we want we will need to take those people to one side and see if we can manage it.
'If we can't they will have to go.'
His comments follow a report from the commission that said the 'values' of potential employees should be considered alongside their academic qualifications.
It said calling a patient 'dear' should be banned, while expressions such as ‘bed-blockers’ – that imply patients are a nuisance – should also be outlawed.
In a series of new measures, the experts want medical staff to face compulsory personality tests before being given jobs to ensure they will treat those in their care with respect.
Over the last eight months a team of officials from the NHS Confederation, the Local Government Association and charity Age UK have been compiling guidelines to improve the care of the elderly in hospitals and nursing homes.
They were prompted by a distressing report by the Health Service Ombudsman this time last year which included accounts of frail patients being left without water or in soiled clothing held up with paper clips.
Sir Keith Pearson said staff 'will have to go' if they do not treat elderly patients with dignity
The panel – the Commission on Improving Dignity in Care for Older People – says hospital staff should refrain from asking patients ‘how are we today dear’.
In addition, they say doctors and nurses should stop reducing patients to illnesses labels or conditions – such as ‘that stroke over there’ or ‘the fractured femur in that bay’. In a joint statement, the authors of the report call for a ‘major cultural shift’ to ensure care is ‘patient-centred’ rather than ‘task-focused’.
Other recommendations include putting patients’ life stories at the ends of their hospital beds alongside their medical notes to encourage staff to think of them as people, not bodies on a ward.
They also want to encourage families to come in at meal times to help feed patients and assist with other tasks such as washing and taking them to the toilet.
The panel say: ‘Like many others, we’ve been deeply saddened by the reports highlighting the undignified care of older people in our hospitals and care homes. In too many cases, people have been let down when they were vulnerable and most needed help .
‘Solving the problems will require the consistent application of good practice and the rooting out of poor care.
‘This will require empowered leadership on the ward and in the care home, as well as in the boardroom. It will mean changing the way we recruit and develop staff so they have the right values as well as skills.’
Focus on the patient: The authors of the report call for a major cultural shift to ensure care is patient-centred
The panel calls for ward sisters to be freed up from their administrative duties so they can take charge of ensuring patients are treated with dignity.
Their recommendations will now be discussed with relevant parties before a final set of guidelines is produced and sent out to all hospitals and care homes. The demands that those in old age are treated with respect is in line with the Mail’s Dignity for the Elderly Campaign. Only yesterday it emerged that doctors were ‘acting like vets’ with dementia patients to avoid talking to them.
They often ‘make it up as they go along’ because they have no idea how to treat them, a study revealed.
One consultant admitted to using a ‘veterinary approach’ towards the sick.
He added: ‘And then you perhaps may not be treating them in the same way as someone else that you can talk to.’
Roswyn Hakesley-Brown, of the Patients Association said: ‘Patients and relatives continue to tell us that their clinicians do not communicate with them properly, that they are not being helped to eat and drink, they can’t get adequate pain relief and often they are not given any assistance with their toileting.
‘These fundamental issues need to be addressed and properly attended to whatever policy and regulatory framework care homes and hospitals are operating in.’
Care Service Minister Paul Burstow said: ‘Kindness and compassion, dignity and respect must be central to care, whoever provides it and wherever it is provided.
‘The big challenge is how to translate these recommendations into action.’