Posted by: Admin | October 13, 2011

Who cares about the old?

I am so sorry to return with a rant, but the ugly subject of elderly abuse has reared it’s ugly head again and I am seething. Unannounced visits by the Care Quality Commission to 100 hospitals have found that elderly patients are still being treated without the dignity and respect they should be able to expect in some of our hospital wards, in some cases leaving them dangerously exposed to infection and malnutrition. Food and call bells being placed out of reach, being left to lie in urine and faeces, curtains left open during intimate examinations – for goodness sake, when did we stop caring?

The report, more details of which can be found on the BBC News website, blames “a lack of leadership, poor attitude among staff and a lack of resources” for the failings. Health Minister, Andrew Lansley, points a finger at nurses, blaming a lack of “nurse Leadership whilst the Royal College of Nursing spokeswoman blames lack of funding: ie the Government. In May, the RCN warned it is “‘inevitable’ frontline care will be affected by staffing cuts.”  Is it?

I’m sorry, but where does simple, common decency fit into all this? Has empathy been banned on the wards on pain of dismissal? How can anyone, whether in uniform or not, walk past an elderly person “rattling the bars of their bed for 25 minutes to attract staff attention”? Or leave someone with food and drink tantalisingly out of reach?

One of the hospitals criticised has said they will be commissioning a report on the problem. I’ve worked recently in a Government department and I know what that means – it means: let’s be seen to be doing something about the problem without actually be doing anything at all. You don’t need reports and prevarication – JFDI (Just Do It) It’s not rocket science to feed, clean and comfort the people in your care.

I was told there was no room for principles and morals in my job by my direct line manager. Is that what nurses on the front line are being told? The RCN have responded to the Care Quality Commission Report by saying that individual nurses must be “accountable for their own practice”  and have called for a wider debate about how we view and treat the elderly in society. All good and fine, but meanwhile why doesn’t everybody get their heads out of their backsides and do a ward round?


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