Monday, January 18, 1999 Published at 02:11 GMT
Campaign to improve elderly care
Many elderly people are not receiving the best care in hospital
A two-year campaign to improve "shocking levels of ill treatment" for elderly people in hospital begins on Monday.
The organisation says a survey has shown that the needs of the elderly are "often the last to be met on overstretched acute wards".
The first step in the campaign is to gather as much information on the treatment of the elderly from the public.
Hilary Carter, a spokeswoman for the organisation, said: "We want to hear from them if they feel they have had a bad experience".
She said Help the Aged could give advice because people often did not know what constituted bad practice and whether they could complain.
The campaign also wants to encourage people to lobby at a local and national level to improve standards of care.
It specifically aims to:
It will concentrate on ensuring the government's promised National Service Framework for the NHS includes a section on older people's needs, ensuring there are enough trained staff to care for the elderly and improve the hospital discharge process.
The campaign will also seek a review of the hospital complaints system and unannounced ward inspections.
Ms Carter said nurses got very little training in dementia care, although people over 50 made up half of the average acute ward.
But a scheme at Frenchay hospital in Bristol suggested ways the specialism could be improved.
The hospital has the country's first nurse specialist in dementia care services who is looking at new ways of communicating with people with dementia.
The Dignity on the Ward campaign follows October's Health Advisory Service 2000 report which found "great variability in the quality and effectiveness of care" for elderly people.
This included patients who needed help to eat being ignored and staff shortages.
"The Help the Aged campaign will be a dog at the heels of government and hospitals to make sure that quality care is not just a promise, but a reality for older people in hospital."
A letter in this week's British Medical Journal suggests elderly people may be dying unnecessarily because their needs are being ignored.
Dr David Goldhill and colleagues from the Royal London Hospital said they believe a failure to recognise signs of critical illness in the elderly may contribute to mortality rates on intensive care wards - possibly the "the tip of the iceberg" in preventable hospital deaths.