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Older care needs image revamp

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There needs to be a major shift in the way in which caring for older people is presented as a nursing career, the government has claimed.

As the numbers of older people continue to rise there will be greater demand on health and social care services to look after them but older people are not seen as an attractive career option in comparison with other healthcare options, junior health minister Ivan Lewis said last week at the launch of the government’s latest initiative on patient dignity.

Changing the way in which caring is presented as a career might be one way to attract more people into nursing and caring for older people, he said at the launch of the national dignity tour at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London.

‘The way we present the care system is often in a deficit – how it goes wrong and how it lets people down,’ he said.

Newly appointed dignity ambassador Sir Michael Parkinson agreed that a change was needed. He said that it was impossible to ‘put a price’ on the care provided by nurses. ‘We take it for granted that they do it when they work for less money than most people would,’ he said.

He added that he had seen a real variation in the care of his elderly mother who was looked after at home for the last five years of her life. Some nurses were ‘totally dedicated’ while others acted like ‘jailors’ at times, he said.

The dignity tour will run for six months, starting in June.

Mr Lewis will visit care homes and other services offering excellent dignity in care, with the aim of encouraging more people to take on the role of dignity champions.

Mr Lewis added that the new NHS Constitution, to be published later this year, would prioritise dignity alongside medical care.

The RCN is due to launch a separate campaign on dignity next month. The results of a college survey, revealed at the end of April, showed that many members felt non-essential paperwork, bed pressures and staff shortages were preventing them from giving patients the dignified care they deserved (NT News, 6 May, p6).

NT’s next issue of Nursing in Care Homes will be published on 17 June.

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