Call for patients to be respected

THE ELDERLY must be treated with ‘respect and love’ when they go into hospital in West Sussex, a county councillor has told health chiefs.

Frank Wilkinson (Con, Storrington) was speaking after raising concerns about national publicity over the care and treatment of the elderly elsewhere in the country.

Mr Wilkinson, and fellow West Sussex health watchdogs, were told that quality of care at hospitals in Chichester, Worthing and Southlands, Shoreham, has been praised by independent regulators after unannounced visits, West Sussex health watchdogs were told.

The information was given during a debate by the county’s health overview and scrutiny committee after Mr Wilkinson expressed concerns over ‘awful publicity’ in national newspapers about poor standards of hospital care for the elderly in some other parts of the country.

Mr Wilkinson said he knew that with modern employment laws and regulations it was not easy to reprimand, or in some cases get rid of, staff who were not doing their jobs properly.

He asked representatives of the Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust - who were speaking about their ‘redesign for quality’ proposals - what they were doing to make sure that in West Sussex care was taken of the elderly in hospital, and that some of the things reported in the national media did not happen.

“We want to know what measures you are putting in place so the elderly are treated with respect and love when they go into hospital,” he added.

Trust chief executive Marianne Griffiths said they all knew that having the right ratio of nurses to beds was significantly important in terms of basic dignity and care.

At Southlands Hospital, there had been an unannounced inspection by regulators, to test nursing standards. Not only were there no breaches of care standards, but there had been ‘strong commendations’.

This meant all three hospitals, Chichester, Worthing and Southlands, had been inspected. Reports had all been positive, and improvements noted in quality of care over the last 18 months.

She told the HOSC: “We will be relentless in pursuing quality, but we have made great steps.”

Ms Griffiths said there were regular ‘patient safety walkabouts’ at the hospitals, involving herself and other staff.

“I regularly walk around, but we also have timed patient walkabouts,” she said. These involved going to a ward, talking to patients, looking at safety and quality of documentation, with nutritional assessments, and seeing that patients were treated in a humane way.

“We record this, and take findings to the board,” she added. “I as chief executive read every complaint and every compliment in the trust, and we take them very seriously.

“We also ask patients to share stories with the board.”

The best feedback was obtained by talking to patients or their carers.

Trust medical director Dr Philip Barnes told the meeting that in the last 18 months it had recruited 225 additional nurses. This was partly to replace agency nurses, but it represented £1.7m new investment in nursing staff.

* The committee agreed a recommendation proposed by chairman Christine Field (Con, Lindfield) supporting the ‘vision and direction of travel’ in the service redesign, in view of the improved prospects for safety and quality of care.

However, it called for an assurance over a review of community beds, and its timing, and that standards of care for the elderly would be improved.

It also called for the specific needs of small numbers of disadvantaged people to be addressed.

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