A TOP Government health spokesman has accused Scottish hospitals of failing to care for elderly patients.
Duncan McNeil, convener of the Scottish Parliament’s health committee. said problems including failing to screen for dementia and failing to ensure that elderly patients are fed and hydrated are commonplace in hospital wards across the country.
McNeil condemned standards of care in Scottish hospitals after examining a series of reports by watchdog Healthcare Improvement Scotland.
Elderly support charities called the findings “worrying” and “disappointing,” and warned that insufficient care could lead to “serious” problems for Scottish hospitals in the future.
McNeil, who is also Labour MSP for Greenock and Inverclyde, said analysis of the reports revealed similar failings existed in hospital’s across the country.
He said the study showed a failure in hospitals to screen for brain conditions such as dementia and to draw up care plans for patients suffering from this type of condition.
He also warned the study revealed failures in ensuring old people are properly fed and hydrated, with patients not always referred to a dietician and patients and staff not having access to equipment or utensils to help with feeding.
He said: “The same issues are coming up again and again and the systems that are supposed to be in place – assessments and care plans – are not in place and not being actioned or monitored.
“We have also got to bear in mind that these are announced inspections. When you see the reports together there are clear trends here, which simply should be ringing alarm bells.
“Each of these reports contain shocking individual stories, but more importantly when you bring them together, it looks like we have got a serious problem in the acute hospitals trying to manage and prioritise elderly and vulnerable people alongside everything else they deal with,” he said.
“It looks like, under that sort of pressure, it is the elderly and the vulnerable who are losing out.”
Inspection reports on dementia care have so far covered the Western Infirmary, Royal Alexandra Hospital and Glasgow Royal Infirmary in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, the Western General in NHS Lothian and Hairmyres Hospital and Wishaw General in NHS Lanarkshire.
The reports show a lack of stimulation for patients with dementia and brain conditions at the Western Infirmary, Western General, Hairmyres and Glasgow Royal Infirmary.
The report also showed that analysis of three hospitals, The Western General, Western Infirmary and Wishaw General, found insufficient information in patient’s records about what help they might need with eating and drinking and a lack of appropriate equipment, such as scales to weigh patients.
A spokesman for charity Age Scotland called for an investigation into the failings in order to produce a series of clear recommendations for action.
He said: “From the recent run of inspections by Healthcare Improvement Scotland a picture is beginning to emerge of NHS staff who, by and large, provide a good quality of care, yet with too many corners cut.
“Recurring incidences of incomplete records, inadequate screening and failure to fully comply with agreed procedures are worrying.”
Jim Pearson, deputy director of policy at Alzheimer Scotland, said the organisation had highlighted such issues for years and provided funding, together with the Scottish Government, for NHS boards to appoint specialist nurse consultants to tackle such issues.
He added: “We are deeply disappointed that these common issues and problems are not yet eradicated from all of our acute care environments.
“The size and scale of the number of people with dementia in acute care is only going to increase; if we fail to get the basics right now, we will have serious problems in the future.”
Health Improvement Scotland (HIS) said the hospitals were identified for inspection through a risk profile compiled by gathering various data.
A spokesman for HIS said: “Identifying key themes is an important part of our inspection programme to improve the care of older people in acute hospitals in Scotland.
“With this in mind, we will be producing regular reports for the Scottish Government that will focus on those themes that we see emerging from our inspections.
“Moreover, the key findings emerging from the inspections will inform a national programme to improve care for older people.
“This way, learning from individual hospitals will benefit the NHS in Scotland as a whole.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said action plans were being put in place by NHS boards following inspections to ensure necessary improvements were carried out.
She added: “We are pleased that unannounced as well as announced inspections have been introduced – put in place by this administration in February – and we are confident that they will help drive up standards of care of older people even further across Scotland.
“We are working in collaboration with NHS boards and a wide range of relevant bodies to identify national themes emerging from the inspection reports and to use this to inform policy at a national level.”