Routine Abuse of Elderly in NHS Care ; Report Criticises Nurses Patients Left Hungry and Thirsty Mental Health Needs Ignored

Article excerpt

A DEVASTATING indictment of the standard of nursing care given to older people on Britain's hospital wards is contained in a government report published yesterday.

The report by the Standing Nursing and Midwifery Advisory Committee says elderly patients are allowed to go hungry and thirsty, woken too early or left immobile and under-occupied too long, and denied basic rights to privacy and independence. The report was slipped out quietly by the Department of Health yesterday, as ministers announced a new drive to end ageism in the NHS. It was not handed out at the ministerial press conference but made available only on the department's website.

It identifies "major deficits" in the care elderly people receive in hospital which leaves some of their most fundamental needs unmet. Persistent "negative attitudes" about nursing older patients are a cause of "great concern", it says. Examples of good practice "are the exception rather than the norm".

The report, Caring for Older People: A Nursing Priority, focuses on the acutely ill treated in hospital. It says: "The care of older people is mainly deficient in fundamental aspects of nursing, failing far too often to meet their basic needs for food, fluid, rest activity and elimination. Their psychological, mental health and rehabilitation needs are often ignored." It adds that lack of essential resources is a constant problem. "Staff often lack the basics - linen, pillows, dressings and personal items - that make caring for patients possible."

At the press conference, inisters announced targets to improve access to care, including thousands more hip, knee and cataract operations, as part of a new National Service Framework for Older People. It was backed by pounds 120m - first announced in the Budget - to refurbish "Nightingale" wards. …