‘Childlike’ language used for elderly patients is criticised

An inspection at the ERI found dignity and comfort were compromised
An inspection at the ERI found dignity and comfort were compromised
Have your say

A NEW report by health inspectors has criticised hospital staff for using patronising and “childlike” language towards older patients.

The report, based on visits to eight hospitals across the country, called for elderly people to be treated with greater compassion, dignity and respect.

The criticism comes after the Evening News highlighted poor standards of care at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

Last week, a highly critical report on the ERI revealed a catalogue of neglect of elderly patients.

A surprise three-day inspection at the flagship hospital found patients’ dignity and comfort was compromised and raised serious concerns about nutrition and the treatment of people with dementia. On several occasions, the inspectors intervened themselves due to the poor standard of care.

The latest report, by Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS), is the first six-monthly overview of standards of acute care of the elderly. Edinburgh’s Western General was among the hospitals visited.

Acting chief inspector Ian Smith said: “In the majority of our observations, we saw staff treating older people with compassion, dignity and respect. We also noted many hospitals have started to make the hospital environment more suitable for patients with dementia.

“However, we identified a number of areas for 
improvement. In some instances, staff did not always consider the patient’s privacy and dignity.”

The report said: “We found examples of patients referred to as ‘feeders’ and ‘wanderers’. Patients were described as needing ‘fed’ or ‘toileted’.

“Some patients were addressed in a childlike manner and words commonly associated with childhood, such as ‘cot sides’, were used to describe their care.”

They also noted medical staff did not always comply with do-not-resuscitate guidance and openly discussed personal issues and what was wrong with a patient at their bedside.

Lindsay Scott, of charity Age Scotland, said: “A lot of this is down to staff not being able to provide patients with the attention that most of them want to. Staff looking after one patient, for example, when they are interrupted, or patients being passed from one member of staff to another. This is not good for patients, especially those with cognitive impairment such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.”

Health Secretary Alex Neil said: “We introduced these inspections to support and drive improvement in the care of older people right across the NHS in Scotland, and we know that they have already led to improvements at ward, hospital and Board level. The report highlights areas of strength in the delivery of care as well as identifying how we continue to make improvements.

“The issues of language and culture raised in this report is clearly unacceptable and strong lessons must be learnt. I expect NHS Boards to address this as a matter of urgency.”