UK's Royal College seeks reforms in NHS treatment of elderly

Britain's Royal College of Physicians has demanded big changes in the way National Health Service (NHS) trusts are treating older patients.

It said such patients were being treated badly, with many frail pensioners moved repeatedly during a hospital stay, further jeopardising their health .

It said changes were needed to overhaul patient care and prevent scandals such as that at Mid Staffordshire, where hundreds of people died amid hospital failings. The college has proposed a new system of ''elder-friendly'' quality marks, which would be given to wards depending on the levels of satisfaction among older patients.

The recommendation is one of 33 made by the senior doctors in response to the public inquiry into Mid Staffs.

They said on Monday that ''fractured care'' of the elderly was one of their greatest concerns, with too many pensioners becoming lost in the system and no one taking responsibility for their well-being.

''It is not uncommon for patients, particularly older patients, to be moved four or five times during a hospital stay and at night, often with incomplete notes and no formal handover,'' the college said in its report. Each move of a frail patient could add as much as two days to their stay, the report found.

It proposed that the new system be introduced next year, following a pilot.

The college also backed government plans for a named member of staff who is responsible for each patient in hospital.

Suzie Hughes, the chairman of the college'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 report also calls for changes including the recruitment of more specialists in elderly care to tackle a ''looming crisis'' in the medical workforce.

Michelle Mitchell, the charity director-general at Age UK, said the proposals were ''encouraging'' but that a ''real culture change'' was needed to put the needs of the elderly first. She said: ''Time and again we hear from older people and their families who have received unacceptable treatment and care.

''Older people are among the most frail in hospital and usually have the most complex needs. It's in the interest of both hospital and patients that, wherever possible, older people are not shifted around from ward to ward as this puts their care and recuperation at risk.''