New standards to improve care of elderly in hospital

Patients will get more help to move back home. Picture: Getty
Patients will get more help to move back home. Picture: Getty
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GIVING elderly hospital patients and their carers more say in decision-making is at the heart of a new set of standards published today for NHS Scotland.

The 16 standards, building on ones last issued in 2002, also puts greater emphasis on making sure there is well co-ordinated support among different disciplines for older people returning home from hospital. Patients will have a health or social care staff member responsible for co-ordinating their move home. This will help tackle bed-blocking where patients cannot leave hospital due to lack of aftercare.

Other standards include a greater focus on initial assessment on admission and understanding the complexity of care that some patients need. Each standard includes a statement about the level of performance that NHS boards are expected to achieve.

The standards come into effect immediately but health boards will require time to implement them before inspections by the body Healthcare Improvement Scotland in the autumn. Measures to involve older patients include listening and acting on their views during their hospital stay. Carers, family members or other representatives will also be given the opportunity to join the discussion.

Dr Christine McAlpine, geriatric medicine specialty adviser to the chief medical officer, said: “This new set of standards has been developed to support staff to provide the best care for older people in hospital, wherever healthcare is delivered. Each standard details what patients, their representatives and the public can expect of healthcare services.”

Derek Young, Age Scotland policy officer, said: “Many complaints about hospital care relate not to the functional aspects of treatment, but to how people feel they have been treated. Now, for the first time, inspectors will be making proactive checks in these areas.

“Health boards will have to take appropriate steps to ensure care is focused on the needs of patients, older people enjoy dignity and privacy in hospitals, and people’s rights to know and to make choices about their care are not ignored because of cognitive or communication 
difficulties.

“These changes should mark a step-change in older people’s experiences in hospital, and Age Scotland would very much welcome this.”