Michael Parkinson Fights For Dignity In Care Homes

Elderly people are being treated like inmates in prison by uncaring nurses, Sir Michael Parkinson has claimed, as he promotes a drive to ensure patients live with dignity and respect in hospitals and care homes.

The broadcaster said he had been forced to complain about the treatment his mother, Freda, received before she died last year aged 95.

But he also admitted fearing the repercussions for her once he made a complaint, saying that he did not want to leave her alone.

Sir Michael was named yesterday as the Government’s new “dignity ambassador” with a mission to raise awareness of the importance of compassion in care services.

He said: “My mother had a wonderful life except for the last five years, and experienced a variety of care. I came across an extraordinary mixture of care – some nurses who were utterly dedicated and wonderful.

“But there were others who treated it as a job and a bit like they were a jailer, treated people in their care as inmates. There were distressing signs of elderly people being left weeping who were still there half an hour later, and that’s obviously not right.”

He said he had complained about his mother’s care once or twice. “When I left the building I did wonder, ‘Who will get the smack for this?’ I used to worry about leaving her on her own.”

Sir Michael, 73, whose chat show ended last year, also said nurses should be paid more. “We take it for granted they’re going to work for less than most people and that’s wrong,” he said at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in central London.

Over the next six months Ivan Lewis, the Care Services Minister, is to visit every area of England to encourage more people to become “dignity champions”. More than 1,800 people have signed up to promote the respectful and compassionate treatment of elderly people in their areas, but the Government wants twice as many.

Mr Lewis also announced that “discussions” would be opened with councils to make sure that elderly couples were not split up when they need more care.

The Daily Telegraph reported on Monday that a married couple who have been together since the Second World War could be separated before their diamond wedding anniversary because their local council would not pay for both to move into a nursing home.