Hospitals slammed for care of elderly

26 May 2011
<p>Serious concerns have been raised about how older people are treated in some NHS hospitals - including one where doctors prescribe drinking water for elderly patients because "appalling" levels of care are leaving them dehydrated.</p>

Three of the 12 hospitals visited by inspectors from The Care Quality Commission (CQC) are failing to meet basic standards required by law for the care of elderly patients.

The CQC also raised concerns about three other NHS hospitals.

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust and Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust in North London could face enforcement action.

Doctors at Alexandra Hospital in Worcestershire even have to prescribe drinking water for elderly patients to remind nurses to give them enough fluids. Dehydration contributes to the death of more than 800 hospital patients every year.

The CQC published the first 12 reports from inspections of 100 hospitals. A national report is due in September.

Inspectors found instances of people not being helped to eat or drink, with water being left out of reach for long periods. In some hospitals meals were routinely dumped by patients' beds while they were asleep, then removed untouched.

Emergency call buttons were often left out of patients’ reach and frequently had to be pressed several times before they are responded to. One elderly man was forced to attract attention by banging on his water jug or shouting.

Other concerns included staff not closing the curtains around a patient’s bed before examining them.

Speaking today, Eve Richardson, Chief Executive of the National Council for Palliative Care, the umbrella body for Dying Matters, said:

“It is scandalous that the care older people are receiving in some NHS hospitals is failing to meet even basic standards required by law. All people admitted to hospital, regardless of their age, should receive the highest standards of care, and be treated humanely and with dignity and respect. This means treating all people as individuals and allowing them to become involved in their own care, something which the Government has committed to in its End of Life Care Strategy and elsewhere."

The reports do acknowledge examples of excellent care where treatment was explained in a way patients could understand and they were treated with respect and dignity.

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