Elderly ignored and treated as ‘objects’ in care system
NHS nurses and care workers should sign up to a new code of conduct which guarantees that elderly patients are treated with dignity and respect and not simply treated as ‘objects’, a coalition of politicians, regulators and charities declares today.
Pensioners in the care system are repeatedly being prevented from making up their own minds, denied treatment on the basis of their age, spoken down to and denied their privacy, they warn.
The call for the new Dignity Code to prevent abuse is made in a letter to The Daily Telegraph signed by the care minister Paul Burstow and his Labour shadow, Liz Kendall, as well as charities, trades unions and academics.
It calls for hospitals, care homes and other institutions to agree a simple set of common standards of care for the first time to prevent cases of abuse and neglect. Care workers could eventually have this new code written into their contracts, supporters hope.
“For too long, too many of those people have been ignored, denied the basic right to speak for themselves or make up their own mind,” the letter warns. “In this era of human rights, too many older people have seen their basic human dignity undermined in situations where they are treated as objects rather than people.”
Elderly people are being treated as ‘objects’ in the care system, say politicians, regulators and charities (ALAMY) Elderly people are being treated as ‘objects’ in the care system, say politicians, regulators and charities (ALAMY)
The signatories are backing a new “Dignity Code” drawn up by the National Pensioners’ Convention – which represents elderly groups around the country – setting out how pensioners should expect to be treated in their homes, residential care, and the NHS.
It is hoped the code will be on display in every care home, doctors’ surgery and hospital ward in the country and made a central plank of nurses’ and care workers’ training.
It follows a string of scandals involving the abuse of the elderly and disabled and comes at a time when funding of elderly care is under more intense scrutiny than ever before.
Around 400,000 people in England live in care homes while more than two million older people overall are need of care in some form.
The residential care market is worth an estimated £14 billion a year of which almost £10 billion goes to private care homes.
Earlier this month a committee of MPs warned that frail elderly people were being ”passed like parcels” between different agencies in a fragmented and chaotic care system in desperate need of reform.
The letter, signed by 21 public figures including the heads of Age UK, the Royal College of Nursing, the TUC and the care regulator the Care Quality Commission, demands an end not just to extreme cases of abuse but also everyday practices which diminish the dignity of older people.
“In extreme cases, there have been instances of abuse and neglect, but there are many examples of older people being spoken about as if they were not there, deprived of basic privacy or denied respect for their hygiene or personal appearance,” it adds.
“At times people have been refused treatment on grounds of age while others have been subject to unnecessary medication or restraints. This has to stop.”
The new code, which is published today, calls on nurses and carers always to obtain consent for treatments and demands that elderly people are allowed to “speak for themselves” either directly, or in cases where this is no longer possible, through a friend or relative.
Significantly, it requires carers to address older people formally rather than by their first name, unless they are invited to do otherwise.
Dot Gibson, general secretary of the National Pensioners’ Convention said: “Much of what the Dignity Code calls for is to treat individuals as human beings, rather than as second-class citizens who can have their wishes and feelings ignored and overlooked.
“Providing someone with personal dignity must be a basic requirement in any care setting and there must be no excuse for denying someone their right to be treated with respect.”
Gary FitzGerald, chief executive of the charity Action on Elder Abuse, one of the signatories, said standards of respect for elderly people in care had deteriorated so badly over the last 10 years that neglect is now being taken for granted.
“When you are in an environment that degrades you every day in the little things, that you can’t escape from, that is death by a thousand cuts, that just destroys who you are, it is so humiliating or degrading, that’s what we have to deal with.”
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, another of the signatories said: “Nurses can and should be leaders in developing the right attitudes towards older people and their needs and dignity.
“However, this is also a wider issue, and it must be recognised that as a nation, the population is getting older and our attitudes have to recognise and embrace this change.”
Liz Kendall, the shadow care minister, said: “Healthcare is becoming increasingly specialised, with the risk that services too often focus on the medical and technical aspects of treatment and not on the basic human elements of care.
“We must ensure the quality and experience of care for older people is a top priority for the NHS.”
Paul Burstow, the care minister, said: “Older people play an incredibly important role in society and are the linchpins of many families and communities.
“Ensuring they are listened to, respected and protected in later life is the least we can all do in return.
“By placing my signature alongside those of others I want to send a clear sign that government is determined to lead the way in making sure all those things happen.”
But last night Mr Burstow also warned that serious cases of abuse were in danger of being overlooked because regulators are swamped with trivial reports of welfare issues from staff obsessed with watching their own backs.
He cited examples of how a care assistant who fell asleep on duty on one occasion was reported as a “safeguarding issue” as was a torn piece of carpet.
“Those systems only work if they are used properly and the people running them do not become bogged down investigating cases that have nothing to do with protecting people from abuse,” he said.
“This is about common sense, trusting front line professionals to use their judgment so that the most serious cases of abuse don’t get lost amongst cases that should never have been referred in the first place.”
Later this month the findings of a new joint commission on dignity in care involving NHS and council leaders and Age UK are due to be published.
£16 vitamin D treatment that cost the NHS £2400 due to ‘supply problems’
The NHS is spending up to £2,400 a time on vitamin D supplements that can be bought for just £16, it has emerged. Last year nearly £80million was spent handing out drugs to treat vitamin D deficiency, an amount which has more than doubled in five years.
GPs say they are forced to buy the more expensive brands of drugs due to ‘supply problems’ with the cheaper versions. They point out that such supplements are now in high demand as soaring numbers of adults are being diagnosed with a deficiency in vitamin D, which is important for good health, growth and strong bones.
The recent surge in vitamin D deficiency is also leading to rising numbers of children developing the brittle bone disease rickets, which was commonly seen in Victorian times.
Campaigners say that regardless of this resurgence it is ‘very worrying’ that such vast amounts are being squandered on expensive drugs when the NHS is under severe financial strain.
An investigation by GP magazine has found that one patient last year was given a bottle of medicine containing vitamin D supplements in liquid form which cost £2,400. This is 150 times as much as a standard packet of colecalciferol tablets – strong vitamin D supplements – which is normally priced at £16.
Other figures unearthed from the NHS Information Centre reveal that another four patients were prescribed similar medicines costing £830 each, and a further seven were given tablets priced at just over £500 for a single course.
Emma Boon, campaign director for the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘It is very worrying that millions of pounds of taxpayers’ cash are being wasted because of supply problems. GPs need clearer advice on vitamin D supplements to prevent greater costs in the future due to a potential increase in conditions caused by deficiency. ‘With money so tight in the NHS taxpayers can’t afford to pay thousands for a prescription that should cost significantly less.’
Doctors say that in some instances young children will have to be given liquid medicines rather than tablets – which they will not swallow – and that they often cost more.
But nonetheless Dr Chaand Nagpaul, a GP in North London and senior member of the British Medical Association, said he could not explain how the NHS had spent £2,400 on a bottle of medicine.
He said that demand for cheaper vitamin D supplements was ‘outstripping supply’ with increasing numbers of patients being diagnosed with deficiencies.
He added: ‘There will be an increased cost prescribing these supplements but they will benefit the NHS in future.
‘One of the real problems is that the NHS is being judged on how much it spends. What we really need is a system that recognises that increased costs can be justified.’
Earlier this month the chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies wrote to all doctors urging them to be on the lookout for vitamin D deficiencies in their patients. There are concerns that a lack of exposure to sunlight and a poor diet are contributing to a surge in cases in recent years.
Surprise! Surprise! Christian carer who refused to work on Sundays ‘denied rights given to a Muslim allowed to visit mosque’
A Christian care worker was forced from her job for refusing to work on Sundays even though a Muslim colleague had time off on Fridays to visit the mosque, a tribunal heard yesterday.
Celestina Mba, 57, claims she was threatened with disciplinary action after telling her employer her church duties came first.
In her evidence, she said she felt so intimidated by bosses at Brightwell children’s home in Morden, South London, that she had to resign.
‘I was willing to work at any unsocial time of shift in order to preserve my Sundays, I was prepared to work nights, or Saturdays,’ she said.
‘I would have been willing to consider any hours of work, or even a reduction in pay. I believe that my employer did not want to compromise and saw the issue as a question of management power with disrespect to the Christian faith. I have been treated very badly.’
Miss Mba, who has three grown-up children, is suing Merton council for constructive dismissal on the grounds of religious discrimination.
London South Employment Tribunal heard Miss Mba worships every Sunday at her Baptist church and is part of the ministry team visiting hospitals and providing pastoral care for young women.
She said that at her job interview in May 2007 she told her manager John Deegan she was unable to work Sundays, a request he said he could ‘work around’. But seven months into the job she was told she had to cover Sundays.
Miss Mba said she launched an official complaint and tried to come up with solutions to the problem but felt her bosses were being obstructive.
The tribunal heard she arranged shift swaps with colleagues, only for this to be blocked by management.
In January 2010, Miss Mba was called to a disciplinary hearing after refusing to work a Sunday shift she had not obtained cover for. She resigned four months later and has not been able to find work since.
She claims that despite stopping her going to church, the same managers were happy to allow a Muslim member of staff to attend mosque every Friday.
Mr Deegan, who also gave evidence, told the tribunal he did not believe Miss Mba had specified she could not work Sundays and said he did not know of any Muslim employee being given special treatment. The hearing continues.
Last week, Baroness Warsi, Tory Party chairman, said a ‘liberal elite’ was attempting to downgrade the importance of religion in public life.
Andrea Williams, of the Christian Legal Centre, which is fighting Miss Mba’s claim, said: ‘This is another example of Christianity being marginalised in public life. The issue could have been easy to resolve by way of a common sense approach.
‘Increasingly, we see a readiness among employers to accommodate other religions but Christianity seems to be fair game.’
Employment laws do not give Christians the right to Sunday off but bosses must justify Sunday working as a ‘legitimate business need’.
We’ll stand up for the majority: Minister signals an end to multiculturalism
The English language and Christian faith will be restored to the centre of public life, ministers are to pledge today. Eric Pickles will praise the traditions and heritage of ‘the majority’ and describe multiculturalism as the politics of division.
Public bodies should no longer ‘bend over backwards’ to translate documents into dozens of languages and migrants must be asked to learn English and understand the British way of life, the Communities Secretary will say. Children should be educated in a ‘common culture’, promoting a British identity that crosses class, colour and creed.
Events such as the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics should be used to celebrate traditional culture and ‘fly the flags of Britain’ with pride.
Mr Pickles was speaking exclusively to the Daily Mail ahead of today’s announcement of a new strategy on community cohesion and integration.
He said the last Labour government and Harriet Harman, who was its equalities minister, had ‘encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream’.
The minister said the Coalition celebrated Britain’s tradition as a nation of ‘tolerance’ and insisted he was proud to celebrate the special customs and practices that make communities unique. ‘But it’s sad to see how, in recent years, the idea of tolerance has become twisted,’ Mr Pickles added.
‘A few people, a handful of activists, have insisted that it isn’t enough simply to celebrate the beliefs of minority communities; they want to disown the traditions and heritage of the majority, including the Christian faith and the English language.
‘In recent years we’ve seen public bodies bending over backwards to translate documents up to and including their annual report into a variety of foreign languages.
‘We’ve seen men and women disciplined for wearing modest symbols of Christian faith at work, and we’ve seen legal challenges to councils opening their proceedings with prayers, a tradition that goes back generations, brings comfort to many and hurts no one. ‘This is the politics of division.’
Mr Pickles said political correctness had replaced common sense and left millions of people afraid to express legitimate concerns and frustrations. ‘We need a new approach: one that emphasises what we have in common rather than difference,’ he added.
‘Harriet Harman was leading the country down the wrong path. If we are to remain a country where people of different backgrounds feel at ease and get along, we need more confidence in our national traditions. We need to draw a line. ‘We must be unafraid to insist on the common ground and common values we all share.
‘It’s right to stand up for the right of councils who wish to start their proceedings with a prayer. If we want people of all faiths to feel at home and able to contribute here, the last thing we should be doing is knocking Christianity.
‘By the same token, it’s right to ask new migrants to demonstrate a grasp of the English language and an understanding of British traditions. It would be plain unkind is to encourage people to come here without the basic skills and understanding that are vital to getting on in a job, in education and the local community.’
Far from seeing religion as a problem that needs to be solved, ministers regard it as part of the solution, according to Government sources.
The days of the state trying to suppress Christianity – and other faiths – should be over, they said, with the Government aiming to use neighbourhood schemes and other projects to bring different faiths together. Today’s strategy will say the Government believes in certain values and ‘will actively promote them’ – including freedom of speech, freedom of worship, democracy and the rule of law.
It will pledge to challenge extremism in all its forms and tackle those who spread ‘hatred and division’. Ministers plan to marginalise extremist behaviour and improve the recording of hate crime against the Muslim and Jewish communities.
Requiring incomers to learn English, ministers will say, will help improve social mobility.
‘We want to help people realise their potential to get on in life. It’s not about where you are from, but where you are going. We want immigrants to speak the language of their new home,’ said a Government source. ‘People should be educated in elements of a common culture and curriculum.’
British school bans slang! Pupils ordered to use the Queen’s English in the classroom ‘to help children get jobs’
Parents may breathe a sigh of relief – but the local MP hasn’t. A teaching academy has ordered youngsters to leave slang at the school gates and learn to speak the Queen’s English.
Sheffield’s Springs Academy hopes to give them a better chance of getting a job, so slang or ‘text talk’ have been banned while they are in the buildings.
The United Learning Trust which runs the school, which has 1,100 students aged for 11 to 18 and is an working class area of the city, believes slang creates a wrong impression to employers at interviews.
Kathy August, deputy chief executive of the Trust, said: ‘We want to make sure that our youngsters are not just leaving school with the necessary A to Cs in GCSEs but that they also have a whole range of employability skills.
‘We know through the close relationships we have with business partners and commercial partners that when they are doing interviews with youngsters, not only are they looking at the qualifications, they are also looking at how they conduct themselves.
‘What we want to make sure of is that they are confident in using standard English. Slang doesn’t really give the right impression of the person. ‘Youngsters going to interviews for their first job need to make a good impression so that employers have confidence in them. ‘It’s not difficult to get youngster out of the habit of using slang.
‘When youngsters are talking together they use text speak and that’s absolutely fine, that’s what you do in a social context, but when you are getting prepared for life and going for interviews you need to be confident in using standard English.
Penistone & Stocksbridge MP Angela Smith has said the school was wrong to ban slang. ‘I’m a parent and when youngsters are at home we all have to make sure that we are all working together because this is for the benefit of those young people and their future.
‘Using slang is a habit but youngsters are very adaptable and once they know that is what is expected and they know the reason is to help their employability skills they will pick it up very quickly. It is not a big problem at all. ‘It’s something new and people are saying why are we doing it but once we have exclaimed it hasn’t been a problem.’
Penistone & Stocksbridge MP Angela Smith has said the school was wrong to ban slang MP Angela Smith, a former GCSE English teacher at a South Yorkshire secondary, slammed the ruling: ‘The school, is wrong to ban slang. How will the school police this? ‘Who will say what the difference is between slang and dialect? It could completely undermine the confidence of the children at the school.
‘If someone tells them how to speak they could dig in her heels and do it all the more. I really think they have set themselves a task that is impossible to achieve. ‘Who is going to adjudicate? Who is going to say slang, dialect or accent? And which one is right and which one is wrong?
‘Most people know when to put on their telephone voice because that is what we are talking about. When people go on the phone or talk to anyone in authority they put on a different voice.’
Mrs August responded: ‘We are not trying to stamp out dialect or accents, it is simply the use of slang words. ‘For example if someone goes for an interview it is more preferable to say “Good morning” rather than “Hiya” and when the person leaves an employer would much rather here the words “Goodbye” rather than “Cheers” or “Seeya”. ‘”Thank you” is a better word to use than “Ta”. And it’s not a case of policing or enforcing this policy at Springs Academy, we are simply encouraging it among the students.’