Dr Peter Carter has been forced to defend himself after he suggested relatives of the elderly should be encouraged to help care for their loved ones in hospital.
Dr Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, insisted today that relatives of elderly patients should not be forced to carry out any tasks or plug gaps in nursing care.
“We know that there are real benefits for patients where relatives can get involved in care, if that is what both the patient and family want,” he said.
“We would never suggest that relatives perform tasks that nurses are trained and paid to do, or that they should be compelled to carry out any task.
“However, we know from areas such as children’s care that having familiar people involved at mealtimes, for example, can make hospital stays in particular less stressful for all concerned.
“What we would like to see is flexibility to allow relatives to help make patients comfortable, such as extending visiting times.”
Dr Carter’s remarks come after he gave an interview to the Sunday Times where he backed an end to restricted hospital visiting times to allow relatives to help elderly patients with tasks such as feeding and going to the toilet.
NHS Ombudsman Ann Abraham said in February that the NHS needed to undergo an “urgent” change in attitude towards older people after examining “harrowing” complaints about the care of the elderly.
Last week Dr Carter said patients were being put at risk because the NHS was employing a growing number of unregulated and untrained healthcare assistants.
In an interview with The Times he also claimed a growing number of newly qualified nurses were “simply not up to the mark” because they have spent too much time in the classroom and not enough on wards.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, described Dr Carter’s suggestions as “scandalous.”
“Not every patient is going to have a relative close by,” she said.
Should relatives should care for older people in hospital?