Patients should have a set of rights they can expect to be upheld in their care in order to improve standards in hospitals and other care settings, according to the head of the Care Quality Commission.
Speaking at the Dignity Commission set up by the NHS Confederation, Age UK and the Local Government Association to examine what has gone wrong in older people’s care, Cynthia Bower said the idea of patients rights seemed to have been lost.
Asked to what she attributed some of the poor care exposed during the CQC’s recent dignity and nutrition inspections, Ms Bower said resources could be a factor but culture and staff attitudes were more important.
“We saw wards where there were nurses standing around not attending to [patients]. I think this notion that you should have simple rights in relation to your care of could be really effective… we seem to have lost track of it,” she added.
Ms Bower’s appearance came the day after the Patients Association launched its CARE campaign to tackle the most common complaints about basic care: lack of nutrition; patients not being helped to go to the toilet; inadequate pain relief and poor communication, with ignored call bells a particular issue.
The Patients Association has already received more calls this year than it did during the whole of 2010. A report published alongside the campaign launch highlighted 16 of the worst patient experiences cataloguing a string of incidents of poor patient care.
However, many of the stories also highlighted positive nursing care and the difference in cultures between wards in a hospital, or the positive influence of a different ward sister coming on shift.
Ms Bower told the Dignity Commission the CQC’s inspections had found ward leadership to be critical in making the difference between good or poor care.
She had been struck by a comment of a midwife from Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals, which was heavily criticised by the CQC, who claimed she didn’t know the appalling care being given to some mothers was wrong until she went to another hospital and saw how it was done differently.
Asked by NHS Confederation chief executive Keith Pearson whether doctors and nurses “get it” that the NHS is in the business of providing personal care as well as technical procedures, Ms Bower said the issue seemed to be “part of what’s gone wrong”. However, she said the CQC’s dignity and nutrition inspections were “prompting [staff] to think again”.
Ms Bower said Worcester Acute Hospitals Trust, where doctors were prescribing water to make sure patients got fluid intake, had changed “radically” as a result of the inspection.