We recently held an event for Older People’s Forums in London to try to equip them to press for dignity in their local NHS and social care services http://www.ageuk.org.uk/london/news–campaigns/dignity-in-the-capital/. What really struck me during the day was that everyone agrees what the problems are, but they still keep on happening. Some of the ones which came up in workshop discussions were:
Hospitals: rushed discharges with no advance notice or care plan, sometimes at weekends or even at night; lack of pain relief;lack of basic skills or basic communication by staff; decisions about older patients being made without consulting them.
It’s clear that key NHS staff recognise all the problems and want to drive positive change, but how to make that happen at ward level?
Care homes: lack of skills or training in working with people with dementia or who can’t express themselves; lack of activity and stimulation; staff either not treating people as individuals or not having time to.
Care at home: too many different carers in one day; the gender of carers specified being different to that delivered; carers’ times being too rigid – because travel is never factored in; carers have bad attitudes and practices – some don’t even give older people water or know how to change the sheets on a bed; carers don’t turn up.
I know that more money doesn’t automatically mean more compassion. But some of these are the same issues that have been pointed out over and over again in relation to social care funding and spending cuts. Might there be a more direct link between funding and quality of service in social care than in hospitals?
We were aiming to focus on constructive solutions, and the 90 older people participating came up with a lot of ideas. We have provided a written toolkit intended to help people challenge undignified treatment (which is available to download on the link above) and we plan to keep following this up with people who were at the event and to keep raising the issues!