Elderly care should be better regulated, says nursing leader

A12TC2_2153727b Dr Peter Carter called for an overhaul of care services in which older people are looked after by health care assistants who have not had specialist training.

He said elderly patients were as dependent as children but their needs were not reflected in the ratio of nurses to patients.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Dr Carter said: "In children's nursing, the ratio of registered nurses to children is one to four. In elderly nursing, it is one to 10.

"When we are caring for older people, we somehow think this can just be done with a bit of common sense."

His comments come after a report on dignity for older people concluded the patronising treatment of older people in hospitals and care homes should be taken as seriously as racism or sexism.

It also said health workers should not address patients as "dear" or "chuck" without permission.

"The vast majority of care for older people in hospitals is provided nowadays by health care assistants under the supervision of nurses," Dr Carter added.

"In most cases, they don't have adequate training. They don't have the education and what we have is an unskilled, unregulated workforce however well intended."

Calling for greater regulation of those caring for elderly patients, Dr Carter said: "I don't believe the pendulum has swung too far.

"I still believe the vast majority of nurses do provide good, dignified professional care.

"We have had huge changes and as a society, we have not adjusted to the fact we have more and more people living longer but they are not necessarily living longer healthier.

"What we now know is the majority of people in our hospitals are older people. The health service has not changed to adjust to it."

Today's report from a commission including Age UK, the NHS Confederation and the Local Government Association said undignified care was "rooted in the discrimination" of older people.

The report calls for a “major cultural shift” covering training and regulation of care workers and medical staff.

Among 48 separate recommendations, it singles out the use of everyday language.

“Language that denigrates older people has no place in a caring society – particularly in caring organisations – and should be as unacceptable as racist or sexist terms,” it says.

The Telegraph