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Page last updated at 08:48 GMT, Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Elderly care report 'beggars belief'

The NHS is failing to treat elderly patients in England with care, dignity and respect, an official report says.

The Health Service Ombudsman came to the conclusion after carrying out an in-depth review of 10 cases.

Stephen Ford described how he found his mother, Irene Hoyles, in hospital with a "red raw" mouth, apparently dehydrated, and with food she was unable to eat herself by the side of her bed.

When he went to complain to a nurse about the lack of "basic care" she was "flustered".

"It was very difficult to formulate a thought pattern because I was watching my mother die," he said.

"I don't think we should be apportioning blame. I think we should be working out why this has occurred."

Jo Webber, Policy Director at the NHS Federation, said the NHS needs to be "absolutely clear" that basic care is available to every patient.

"What you need is a nurse who has both the technical expertise and the caring empathetic side," she said.

But Prof Raymond Tallis said that the cases should lead us to question the wider social context of elderly care.

We need to "think very hard" he said, about how people could be treated in a "totally inhumane fashion".

The problem, he added, was partly that the "business model" had permeated the caring professions such that "people only value the things that can be counted".

In a society that values "glamour" above all else, he said, "hands on care" was "the least glamorous thing to do".

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