Caring for the elderly


Last week saw the latest in a long line of inspections conducted by Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) which showed major failings in care and support for the elderly.


The inspection watchdog found a series of failings at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Worryingly, inspectors had to intervene on three occasions to help staff preserve patients dignity. This included a female patient with a learning disability who was uncovered and exposed to patients, staff and visitors in the area.


There was also significant concern about the poor levels of care that were identified for patients with dementia. This was of no surprise to me and my team who over the year have conducted an analysis off all the inspection reports produced by HIS.


Our analysis shows that dementia patients are repeatedly being let down in wards across the country. While it is important to note that there are a number of positive aspects with regard to the quality of care, particularly with regard to the interaction between staff and patients, there are also a number of areas that give serious cause for concern.


The needs of elderly patients with dementia are not routinely being assessed, care plans are not always being put in place and patients are being moved from ward to ward without their movement being tracked.


The result of these failures is that there will be elderly patients with dementia who, during their stay in hospital, will feel confused, frightened and isolated, culminating in a loss of dignity to them as individuals, upset to their families and great reputational risk to the NHS.


HIS must get to the heart of problem and analyse the reasons for the poor levels of care. I was astonished to find that at present they don’t do this. Only by understanding the reasons can HIS ensure that the NHS Boards develop action plans that will work in the interest of elderly patients.