Dignity in practice: understanding and responding to the needs of frail older people in hospital

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

  • Led by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, in partnership with Age UK North Tyneside.
  • Tested across three orthopaedic wards and five medical wards caring for older people.
  • Promoted and enabled organisation-wide dignity and compassion in the care of older people.
  • Aligned the clinical and corporate teams to transform the patient pathway and provide safe and compassionate care. 

People aged over 65 account for 70% of hospital bed days, and one in three admitted to hospital will experience memory problems as a result of depression, delirium or dementia.

This Shared Purpose project looked to understand more about the barriers to dignified care for older people, and the learning needs of the trust’s staff. They prioritised and promoted local education initiatives to ensure the workforce, environments and clinical care were fit for purpose.

The project involved aligning the work of the trust’s corporate services in human resources and patient experience with the work of the clinical teams in order to provide dignified and compassionate care for older people.

A number of interventions were devised by the project team around three key areas: the climate of care; supporting and developing the workforce; and improving the care experience for patients. These initiatives included the recruitment of nutrition assistants, Age UK observing care and giving feedback to staff, introducing values-based recruitment, training of multidisciplinary teams, and changing the trust’s induction programme to provide an upfront message on dignity.

The project has had a significant impact in a number of ways. For example, work on promoting nutrition in older patients has resulted in the increased likelihood of patients gaining weight in hospital, and a reduction in lengths of stay. There has been a sharp rise since the programme was implemented in patients reporting always being treated with dignity and respect at the trust – from 82% to 90.5%.

Contact details

For further information about the project, please email Annie Laverty, Director of Patient Experience and Quality at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

    Further reading

    Newsletter feature

    Our shared purpose: dignity in care for older people

    We look in detail at a key strand of the Dignity in Practice project, which focuses on changing the way the HR team supports ...

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