Concerns at elderly patients' care
Half of hospitals are failing to provide good nutrition to elderly patients while 40% do not offer dignified care, figures from unannounced inspections show.
Of 100 hospitals investigated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), 49 sparked minor, moderate or major concerns about nutritional standards for elderly people.
In two hospitals, Alexandra Hospital (part of the Worcester Acute Hospitals NHS Trust) and Sandwell General Hospital (part of Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust), inspectors had major concerns about the way people were fed and given drinks.
Another 15 hospitals resulted in moderate concerns and a further 32 were listed with minor concerns.
Overall, there were minor concerns about the dignity and respect provided to patients in 28 hospitals while a further 12 were told of moderate concerns in this area. Just 45 hospitals out of 100 were listed with no concerns whatsoever about dignity, respect or nutritional standards for elderly people.
At Sandwell General Hospital, inspectors found serious issues with nutrition, especially for people who needed help with eating. Staff did not check whether patients had eaten and did not keep track of their fluid intake.
One nurse said: "Sometimes I am the only staff member to feed on the ward. How can I feed all these people? Sometimes by the time I get to the last bay, either the food is cold or it has been taken away."
A review of patients' case notes showed that most had "not received a thorough nutritional assessment and for those who had been identified as being at risk, care, goal and action planning was inadequate".
At Alexandra Hospital in Worcestershire, staff told how they sometimes had to prescribe drinking water on medication charts to "ensure people get regular drinks", while one elderly patient noted as malnourished on admission was not reassessed until 16 days later, and patients were not weighed when they should have been.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "Everyone admitted to hospital deserves to be treated as an individual, with compassion and dignity. That's why I asked the CQC to undertake unannounced inspections into the treatment of older patients with practising nurses and people who use services - so that poor care can be identified and stamped out. They saw some exemplary care, but some hospitals were not even getting the basics right. That is simply unacceptable."