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Dignity Code launched for older people care


A code has been published which sets out the minimum standard of treatment required for older people in hospitals or in the community.

The Dignity Code, created by the National Pensioners Convention (NPC), aims to preserve the personal dignity of older people in the UK and is supported by people in the care industry and many politicians.

Those who have signed the code include care minister Paul Burstow, shadow care minister Liz Kendall, the Care Quality Commission’s Dame Jo Williams, the Royal College of Nursing’s Dr Peter Carter and Lord Stewart Sutherland, chair of the Royal Commission on long-term care.

NPC general secretary Dot Gibson said: “Providing someone with personal dignity must be a basic requirement in any care setting - and there must be no excuse for denying someone their right to be treated with respect. The Code should be seen in every GP surgery, social services department, hospital ward and nursing home.

“Individuals and their families should have confidence that certain practices will be unacceptable and that they can demand better treatment. This is the first step on the long road to getting 21st century care for Britain’s older patients.”

The code calls on nurses and carers always to obtain consent for treatments and demands that elderly people be allowed to “speak for themselves” - either directly or through a friend or relation.

It also says that older people should usually be addressed formally, rather than by their first name.


Readers' comments (12)

  • Should usually be addressed formally? Why only older patients? Why not all patients? Why assume that they want to be addressed so formally? I thought it was about patient choice? I have never yet come across a patient who wanted to be addressed as Mr/Mrs Somebody and I always ask and give them the option. My Grandma or Grandad would feel very uncomfortable being addressed so formally by someone caring for them. The only patients I have ever called Mr or Mrs were unconcious patients when we were unsure how they would like to be addressed.

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  • When I was training in Belfast in the mid 1960s we were not allowed to call adult patients by their first names. I continued this during my long nursing career and only used a first name when a patient requested I do. I found that saying to a patient 'how would you like to be addressed?' was not a good idea as many older patients worry it may seem like they are being 'snooty' if they say 'call me Mrs/Mr/Miss'. Much better to just address everyone in the same way. I've found that nurses tend to socially discriminate eg if there's a patient who is a senior doctor/ a titled person/ their old school principal. I would much prefer to be addressed as Mrs and then, depending on my relationship with the nurse/doctor can then say call me by my first name. I notice that doctors tend to use first names but are somewhat surprised when the patient asks for their first name so that they can be addressed on equal terms!

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  • I find this "addressing formally" thing amusing.
    I always start off by calling a person by his/her title. I can guarantee that without exception within a couple of days they are asking to be called by their first name and sometimes even a nickname. In nearly 30 years of nursing I have rarely come across anyone who demands this formality. Having said that I respect my patient's wishes and will call them whatever they prefer to be called.

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  • i have read that Code, and while in overall terms it is sensible (some bits are not going to happen - while NICE exists, an elderly patients age will be a consideration in some cost/benefit analyses, sadly) but it requests that clinicians should obtain consent for treatment.

    The law is already clear - unless consent from a patient with mental capacity has been obtained, treatment is illegal because it would be assault - so in part, that Code is asking for a law we already have.

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  • 'I notice that doctors tend to use first names but are somewhat surprised when the patient asks for their first name so that they can be addressed on equal terms!'

    I usually find the friendlier any conversation is, the less likely it is that titles, as opposed to first names, are being used. There is a power aspect, to insisting on titles being used - Jim and Doc is one thing, but Sally and Professor Smith is quite another !

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  • I won't accept that people use first names unless it is both ways! I don't respond to Nurse, Matron or Sister or any other title people care to assign to me by those capable of reading my name badge. I am a person with a given name and a family name.

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  • Anonymous

    I am always a bit baffled when someone says 'My name is Doctor Smith' or 'My name is Elder Robinson' - because the title isn't part of the person's name anyway, is it ? If they said 'I am Professor Hinds' then fine - but 'My name is Nurse Caine' is technically wrong !

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  • when I grew up, in the Ark, the correct form of introduction was Chrisian name, follwed by Surname but then the rules of etiquette were more rigid than they are now although I still tend to stick to some of them - when in doubt, good old fashioned manners never do any harm!

    Now I have been told that to refer to your given name as your Christian name is politically incorrect even if you were baptised a Christian in a Christian country!

    I now do what I consider correct so as not to cause offence but I agree with the above a title is not part of one's name although it might save another embarrassment if you give them this information.

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  • i never make assumptions as to whether a resident wishes to be called mr x or mrs y. if a resident wishes to be called by their first name it should alway be their choice. If a resident doesnot have mental capacity always seek advice from their next of kin this should then not cause offence.
    the problem can arise if their are regional dialect names and the nurse may well use this as part of their normal speech It in no way should be seen as a means of taking offence without taking away professoinalism.
    many elderly people in hospital/care homes find it intimmidating. BE SENSIBLe PLEASE!

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  • "Health workers 'should be sacked' for patronising elderly"

    “Dianne Jeffrey, chairman of Age UK, and one of the commissioners, said: “A person should be addressed how they wish to be addressed, if someone wishes to be addressed as love or chuck or dear – and they have made that clear – that’s all right but is one of the things that needs to be dealt with when they first come into the care system.” “

    “Listen, darling, you just can’t legislate for compassion”

    There also needs to be a certain amount of spontaneity in any human interactions of quality, including healthcare.

    I agree with the comments of

    Anonymous | 5-Mar-2012 3:59 pm

    it needs sensitivity, tact and common sense but does not need 'police' going around to make sure all staff are adhering to some predetermined rules as far as calling people by their names, using terms from their local dialect or other terms of endearment are if these are agreed by the patient and then reprimanding or sacking the staff. This would damage all interpersonal relations and trust in the organisation and stifle the spontaneity of good care.

    As we have already seen in very many instances rigid rules can be carried much too far and be just as detrimental as not having any at all.

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