The move is in response to concerns raised by the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales in a report published earlier this year. “Dignified Care?” examined whether older people in NHS hospitals in Wales receive care in a dignified and respectful way.
Although the report commended examples of good practice across the NHS, it identified a number of failings and made a number of recommendations to ensure improvement.
Lesley Griffiths said:
“It is never acceptable for older people to feel ignored or ill-treated while in hospital, and I am committed to ensuring that they feel respected and are treated with dignity.
“The Welsh Government is taking a zero tolerance approach to this issue, while working with NHS staff to enable them to spend more time with older patients, giving them the respect and help they deserve.
“To ensure compliance with recently revised standards, I am asking Healthcare Inspectorate Wales to carry out unannounced spot-checks on standards of dignity in care for older people in our hospitals.
”Further commitments outlined in our manifesto for this government include a national customer care programme which will ensure proper information gets to patients, and that decisions are clearly communicated both to patients and their families.
“We also pledged to introduce a dementia care awareness programme for all healthcare professionals in Wales, to ensure that general care on hospital wards responds to the prevalence of dementia from a growing elderly population.”
The Minister pointed to a number of activities already underway to bring about improvements in care, such as the Free to Lead, Free to Care programme which empowers hospital ward sisters and charge nurses to manage their wards.
Simple but effective steps have been taken as a result of the Free to Lead, Free to Care programme, such as a red tray system to identify patients who need help at mealtimes. The programme has also introduced protected mealtimes to allow patients to eat without being interrupted and to allow staff to offer assistance.
To further ensure dignity of patients, since 2008, £300 million has been invested in the provision of new hospitals providing single-sex wards, and existing hospitals must have separate areas for male and female patients.
Improvements in care are evident as a result of the 1000 Lives Campaign, which had a specific aim to reduce pressure ulcers. In some wards, pressure ulcers have been eliminated altogether.
The amount of time staff can dedicate to patients is being addressed through the Transforming Care initiative, while the National Dementia Vision for Wales includes measures to address the care of people with dementia in hospital.