Treat older patients with more respect, staff told

Hospital staff have been told to ensure they are treating older patients with respect. Picture: PA
Hospital staff have been told to ensure they are treating older patients with respect. Picture: PA
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Hospital staff in Scotland are not always using appropriate and respectful language when referring to older patients, inspectors have warned.

Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS), which carries out inspections into the care of elderly patients, said in the last year it had seen good examples of the treatment being provided.

But their report found that in some cases patients were not always being treated with the compassion and respect that should be standard practice.

Between August 2012 and April 2013, HIS carried out eight inspections in hospital wards. Inspectors found 25 incidences where hospitals were doing well – known as “areas of strength”.

But they also identifed 87 “areas for improvement”.

Inspectors reported instances of staff using inappropriate or disrespectful language when referring to older patients. Some staff referred to patients by bed or room numbers, while one said “I just need to turn a little lady” when repositioning a patient.

There were also incidences where patient confidentiality was not being considered, such as discussing one person’s treatment in front of other patients.

In some areas the inspectors found stimulation and activity for patients restricted to bedside TVs and chats with staff and visitors. The report added: “We found that if day rooms were available, they were often univiting or were also used as storage areas for ward equipment.”

Older patients were not always being screened for cognitive impairment, such as signs of dementia, when admitted.

And concerns were also raised about a lack of assessments to find out if a patient was at risk of malnutrition. There was also a lack of checks to identify any risk of developing bed sores.

Despite the concerns, on average, 95 per cent of patients asked said quality of care was good.

Jacqueline Macrae, HIS head of quality of care, said: “Through the majority of our observations on wards, we found that staff treated older people with compassion, dignity and respect.

“However, we also identified areas for improvement.”

Health secretary Alex Neil said: “This programme of inspections is helping drive up standards in older people’s care. The report helps us pinpoint where more can be done, and I expect NHS boards to give urgent attention to addressing areas for improvement it identifies.”