Helping the aged: is health care for the elderly good enough?

Helping the aged is health care for the elderly good enough

The case of an elderly patient having to be prescribed water to ensure that they got enough to drink highlights some serious shortcomings about the UK health system.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has publicised cases like this in a new report looking into the level of care given to elderly patient in the UK. 

Three hospitals were named and shamed for failing to provide enough food and drink to elderly patients. Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, the Royal Free in London and Ipswich Hospital were also found to have failed to treat the elderly patients in their care in a dignified way.

As the CQC has only just published the first 12 reports of 100 unannounced inspections there is the prospect that many more neglect of care issues will soon be revealed.

Thankfully the CQC report also uncovered many examples of good care provided to elderly patients by medical professionals. But things can go wrong and when they do Claims Direct can help you or a loved one receive compensation for medical negligence.

Prescribing water

The CQC’s report uncovered one case when a staff member at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust took the desperate measure of prescribing water on medical charts to ensure that patients got enough to drink.

Other findings included:

•Cases of patients not receiving assistance with eating; resulting in meals remaining untouched

•Patients not having access to water at their bedside

•Insufficient monitoring of patients’ weight

•Treatment being given without consent or explanation

•Lack of engagement with patients

The three hospitals named and shamed in the report must all address their shortcomings or face legal action from the regulatory body. 

‘Not a nuisance’

Jo Williams, chair of the CQC, believes that helping elderly patients eat and drink properly “are not difficult things to get right”.

She added: “These are the basics which ensure every patient is treated like an individual – not a nuisance to be ignored or a task that must be completed.”

Other areas of concern

A recent report from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) highlighted that insufficient measures are taken to prevent elderly people from suffering falls in hospitals or care homes.

Commenting on the finding, Nisha Sharma, a medical negligence expert at Russell Jones & Walker solicitors, said: “It seems to me that the NHS are failing the elderly and something needs to be done.”

But what can be done about the lack of ‘dignified’ care for the elderly?

The RCP, in a statement, released earlier this month (May 18th 2011), suggested a number of measures, including: 

•Helping GPs identify elderly people in the community who are at risk of hospital admission so that targeted interventions and preventative measures can be taken

•Improving integration of health and social care systems so that elderly people have “seamless” care

•Reducing unnecessary re-admission rates by improving the management of discharging patients from hospital; ensuring that they receive adequate supervision and care when they are back in the community

There is much also to learn from the many hospitals which provide good care to the elderly rather than concentrating on the ones which don’t. 

A nurse interviewed by ITN News, when asked why her hospital was singled out for praise by the CQC report for treating elderly patients with dignity, said: “We find it’s so important to talk to patients.”

Listening to patients’ concerns, together with reports like the CQC one, could mean that elderly patients are at last finding their voice again.