April 20, 2006

Government sets “zero tolerance” of UK elder abuse

LONDON (Reuters) - The government announced plans on
Thursday to crack down on mistreatment of older people in
hospitals and care homes, pledging a "zero tolerance" approach
to what it concedes is a persistent problem.

Tougher inspections will be introduced and every home will
have to have a senior nurse responsible for fighting age
discrimination and promoting dignity in care.

Changing the often negative culture of attitudes toward
older people is a priority, said Care Services Minister Liam

"We need zero tolerance of these views and a target that in
five years' time no older person or their careers will be
treated with anything other than dignity," he added in a

Age charities pressed for the recommendations to be enacted
as soon as possible.

"Not one more older person should suffer undignified,
inequitable or disconnected healthcare," Age Concern said.
Reported problems include lack of respect for older people in
homes and unwillingness to help them with basic functions like
eating or washing.

"For too long, many older people have continued to
experience care which fails to treat them with the dignity and
respect they deserve and have been seen as mere passive
recipients of care," said Help The Aged in a statement.

The plans were launched by Professor Ian Philp, the
Department of Health's National Director for Older People.
There is no new money for them.

According to government figures, by next year there will be
more people over 65 than under 18. The over-85s are the
fastest-growing segment of the population, set to double in
number by 2020.

"Although overt age discrimination is now uncommon in our
care system, there are still deep-rooted negative attitudes
toward older people," Philp wrote in a report introducing the

The plans include a greater focus on nutrition, improving
end-of-life care and encouraging people to be healthy in old