Hospitals Told: Stop Using 'Old Dear' Term

David Crabtree, Midlands correspondent

A ban on the use of patronising language against older people by hospital staff and care workers is being called for in a new report.

It recommends that terms such as "old dear" and "bed blocker" must become as unacceptable as sexist or racist expressions.

Being treated with respect and dignity in any care setting should be a basic requirement, it added.

The report is from the Commission on improving dignity in care - involving the NHS Confederation, the Local Government Association and Age UK.

It says those who fail to show enough compassion towards older people should be barred from entering the health and care professions, even if they have all the required qualifications.

It believes the whole system needs fundamental change.

The report said: "Expressions such as 'bed blockers' imply older people are a burden or a nuisance. Referring to them by illness reduces them to a clinical condition rather than recognising them as a person.

"Using patronising language such as 'how are we today dear?' belittles them. Language that denigrates older people has no place in a caring society."

Professor Trish Morris-Thompson, of NHS London, said she would expect to see "a form of redress" for anyone using inappropriate words and phrases.

She said: "If somebody says 'oh, there's an old dear in bed four', that's patronising."

Some universities and training organisations already include compassion among the entry requirements, but the report's authors said they wanted to see this applied everywhere.

Under the proposals, nurses would be held accountable and be expected to take action if they felt patients were not receiving dignified care.

Other recommendations include involving residents and relatives in the running of care homes and reducing hospital admissions by delivering care at home or in the community.

"Like many others, we have been deeply saddened by the reports highlighting the undignified care of older people in our hospitals and care homes.

"In too many cases, people have been let down when they were vulnerable and most needed help," said the authors.

They added they want the report to be a "call to arms to the whole health and social care system" and wanted hospitals and care homes to be beacons to the rest of the community.