Patients ‘stripped of dignity’ in hospitals, warns CQC

Patients are being "stripped of their dignity" on many hospital wards because of poor staff attitudes, inadequate leadership and stretched resources, the Care Quality Commission warned today. (Picture posed by model, Rex)

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Patients are being “stripped of their dignity” on many hospital wards because of poor staff attitudes, inadequate leadership and stretched resources, the Care Quality Commission warned today.

One in five hospitals in England are failing to meet CQC standards on respecting and involving people in services or meeting their nutritional needs, an inspection of 100 hospitals found.

Failings included curtains not being closed when people were receiving personal care, call buttons being left out of patients’ reach and staff speaking to patients in a condescending or dismissive way. Some patients were also not given the help they needed to eat or interrupted during meals, leaving their food unfinished.

“Time and time again, we found cases where patients were treated by staff in a way that stripped them of their dignity and respect,” said CQC chair Jo Williams. People were spoken over, and not spoken to; people were left without call bells, ignored for hours on end, or not given assistance to do the basics of life – to eat, drink or go to the toilet.”

She said hospital care was often task-focused, not person-centred, while in some hospitals unacceptable care had been allowed to become the norm because of inadequate leadership.

However, Williams also said that resources were a problem for hospitals, adding: “The best nurses and doctors can find themselves delivering care that falls below essential standards because they are overstretched.”

The findings exposed “shocking complacency” on the part of hospitals, said Michelle Mitchell, charity director of Age UK. “We want to see the important work done by the CQC’s spot checks strengthened,” she added. The government must compel all hospitals to publish data showing malnutrition rates on their wards in a form the public can understand.”

The failings identified were “completely unacceptable”, said Jo Webber, deputy policy director at the NHS Confederation.

“NHS organisations have a responsibility to scrutinise where quality of care is not up to standard,” she added. “NHS trust boards need good systems in place to closely analyse information about quality of care.”

Webber pointed to the inquiry into dignity in care that the confederation has set up in partnership with Age UK and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.

Two hospitals – Sandwell General and Alexandra Hospital in Worcestershire, were found to be placing people at “unacceptable risk of harm”. A subsequent inspection of Alexandra found it compliant but Sandwell General has closed one of its wards after ongoing concerns were found.

A third, James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, received a warning notice after a reinspection found people were not being given appropriate support to eat and drink.

The inspections looked at two wards per hospital and were carried out by CQC inspectors, a senior nurse and people with direct experience of relevant services.

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