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Elderly care must be prioritised: RCP Francis response

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Hospitals must strive to achieve a “gold standard” of care for vulnerable elderly patients so the Mid Staffordshire scandal is never repeated, leading doctors have said.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) said hospital wards should be able to receive a quality mark for proving excellent care for older people.

Issuing a formal response to the Mid Staffordshire Trust public inquiry, the RCP said many instances of substandard care at the trust took place in wards caring for frail older people.

The organisation said elderly patients should be a priority, adding that if the NHS gets care right for this group of patients, it is likely to be improved for others.

The public inquiry was launched after it was found that poor care could have led to the deaths of hundreds of patients as a result of maltreatment and neglect.

The inquiry highlighted the “appalling and unnecessary suffering of hundreds of people” at the trust.

Probes into the scandal revealed that many patients were left lying in their own urine and excrement for days, forced to drink water from vases or given the wrong medication.

The RCP’s response to the inquiry makes a number of recommendations to help the NHS respond to public inquiry chairman Robert Francis QC.

It pledged to develop an “Elder-friendly Ward Quality Mark” which will be distributed to general hospital wards that provide a high quality service.

The response says: “The RCP believes that a quality mark for wards will help to address the bad practice identified by Francis that resulted in substandard care.

“For example, the measures include a questionnaire gathering feedback from older patients directly about the quality of essential care. Following a pilot, the programme is being rolled out with the first quality mark expected to be awarded in 2014.”

The response also calls for all people involved with the NHS to “contribute to a culture change … by putting patient safety, patient experience and quality improvement at the heart of all they do”.

RCP registrar Patrick Cadigan said: “Many of the instances of substandard care at Mid-Staffordshire Trust took place in medical wards caring for our most vulnerable patients: frail older people with complex comorbidities.

“Achieving ‘gold standard’ care for this group must be the priority. It will make a substantial contribution to ensuring that the events at Mid Staffordshire are never repeated.

“Francis’s vision of the patient at the centre of everything the NHS does forces us to reconsider our own actions as individuals and as a body of professionals, and leaves no room for complacency.”

Suzie Hughes, chairwoman of the RCP’s patient and carer network, said: “‘We must get care right for the most vulnerable group, who are often the most challenging to treat: frail older people. The challenge is to embed the experience of this group in hospital care - getting it right for them is our first benchmark.”

The government is expected to issue a formal response to the inquiry later this year.

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