Michael Parkinson appointed government’s dignity ambassador

Michael Parkinson was today unveiled as the figurehead for the government’s campaign to ensure older people are treated with dignity by health and social care services.

The chat show host, who has been appointed as national dignity ambassador, helped Ivan Lewis launch a tour today to raise the profile of the care services minister’s dignity in care campaign, which will run until November and cover every English region. 

Parkinson said he hoped to use his role to “ensure the issue of dignity moves to the heart of all NHS and care services”.

Dignity test for services

Lewis (right) said: “I want the NHS and social care services to apply a simple test – if it wouldn’t be good enough for my mum and dad why should it be good enough for someone else’s?”

Lewis also announced several other measures to bolster his campaign, including discussions with councils on ensuring that couples requiring care should not be separated apart from in exceptional circumstances.

He also said that the government’s proposed NHS constitution would recognise the importance of dignity for patients.

Welcome from sector

Today’s announcements were welcomed by older people’s charities.

Counsel and Care chief executive Stephen Burke (right) welcomed today’s announcements. He said: “Many older people are still enduring intimate personal care on mixed-sex wards and are rushed home from hospital without appropriate planning. And we constantly hear of older couples who are given no option but to face the pain of separation from a spouse when they have to go into a care home.” 

Action on Elder Abuse chief executive Gary FitzGerald said: “We have seen too many situations where very old and very frail people, who have lived together for decades, have been parted in the final years of their lives. This is plain wrong.”

Help the Aged report

Help the Aged said its annual Spotlight report on the lives of older people, published today, had found that 22% of older people felt they were not always treated with dignity in hospital.

Director of policy Paul Cann said: “Dignity in care should never be compromised and should be far more than a mere concept to sign up to. Fine words do not deliver dignity for our older population.”

Other findings from the report included that 29% of older people felt that health professionals tended to treat them as a nuisance, and that pensioner poverty had stayed the same from 2007-8, with 21% of the age group living below the poverty line.

Lewis said he also wanted to increase the number of “dignity champions” to 3,000 from 1,800 now. Champions, who can be volunteers or paid care staff, are charged with raising awareness of the importance of dignity in care in their areas.

Related articles

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Research abstracts: Dignity for older people

Expert guide on elderly people’s services


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