1. ITV Report

Elderly patients are being 'shunted like parcels' as doctors warn that acute hospital care is 'on brink of collapse'

Elderly patients are being ‘shunted like parcels’, doctors have warned Photo: Reuters

Elderly patients with conditions such as dementia are receiving the poorest quality of care and are being shipped from one ward to another 'like parcels', leading doctors have warned.

ITV News's Science and Medical Editor Lawrence McGinty reports:

An aging population combined with cutbacks and an increase in admissions has put strain on resources.

Hospital buildings, services and staff are not equipped to deal with the people with multiple, complex needs including dementia.

Nearly two thirds (65%) of people admitted to hospital are over 65 years old, and an increasing number are frail or have a diagnosis of dementia.

An aging population and cutbacks have put strain on resources Credit: Reuters

Patients (particularly elderly patients) are sometimes moved up to four or five times during a hospital stay, often with incomplete notes and no formal handover.

Older people are at particular risk as they account for 70% of bed days.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) have warned that acute hospital care is on the brink of collapse.

They say hospitals are so full that that elderly patients are being discharged in the middle of the night.

One doctor told me that his trust does not function well at night or at the weekend and he is relieved that nothing catastrophic has happened when he arrives at work on Monday morning. This is no way to run a health service.

– RCP president Sir Richard Thompson

If action is not taken, there could be a reproduction of the tragic events at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust where as many as 1,200 patients may have died unnecessarily because of poor care. There will not be some cataclysmic overnight explosion but there will be a gradual increase in the sorts of tragedies that we've heard about at Mid Staffs.

– Professor Tim Evans, lead fellow the RCP's Future Hospital Commission

We have managed to cope with it but the system can't cope much longer, and we need to radically rethink how we provide the care for acute medical patients, particularly the elderly.

– Dr Andrew Goddard, medical director for the RCP workforce unit

Doctors on wards up and down the country are struggling to care for patients who require urgent or emergency care, according to the report.

As queues at the doors of accident and emergency wards increase, elderly patients who are already admitted to the hospital are shipped from one ward to another "like parcels".

This is leading to fractured care and a lack of compassion that may occur as a consequence, RCP officials said.

Frail patients are sometimes being shunned by hospital staff, doctors have said Credit: PA Archive

The RCP has said "radical reorganisation" of the health service is needed if it is to attain high standards of care for patients.

Senior RCP officials suggest that one option could be to shut hospitals, with a bigger focus on community care, so that people could get hospital services at bigger centres 24 hours a day seven days a week.

It is painfully evident that the healthcare system stands on the brink of crisis. People with dementia are going into hospital unnecessarily, staying in too long and coming out worse.

– Alzheimer's Society chief executive Jeremy Hughes

We would like to reassure our patients that we take the care of patients with dementia very seriously and try to involve their family and carers as much as possible.

– Eastbourne District General Hospital

We are modernising the NHS so it can continue to do more and improve care - putting doctors and nurses, those who best understand the needs of patients, in charge of improving the NHS.

– Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter
Dementia sufferers are most at risk of neglect, says the report Credit: PA Archive

Other recommendations include;

  • All health professionals to promote patient-centred care and to treat all patients with dignity at all times.
  • The redesign of services to better meet patients needs.This may involve consolidation of hospital services and hospital closure.
  • The planning and implementation of new services must be clinically led.
  • The reorganisation of hospital care so that patients can access expert services seven days a week.
  • Access to primary care to be improved so patients can see their GP out of hours, relieving pressure on A&E services.

Daybreak's Jonathan Swain reports.