Hospital’s case prompts national action on care of dementia patients

Inspection teams are to be sent into Scottish hospitals in a bid to ensure there is no repeat of the “woefully inadequate” care given to a dementia patient in Dundee.

Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon announced the tough new move on Monday, as she pledged to make improved care of the elderly and support for those with the illness a “personal priority”.

The vow came just days after a damning report into the Ninewells Hospital treatment of an 80-year-old woman known only as Mrs V.

She died of pneumonia 16 days after she started receiving heavy dosages of medication for her condition.

Labour leader Iain Gray last week called for a summit on the “crisis in care” following several high-profile allegations of mistreatment. Questions were prompted by a police investigation into a nursing home in Edinburgh where two residents died.

Meanwhile, hundreds of residents could also be affected by financial difficulties at care home provider Southern Cross.

Addressing the Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Awareness Week conference in Glasgow, Ms Sturgeon said Scotland’s chief nursing officer would oversee the implementation of standards of care for people with dementia, as well as ensuring high standards of care for older people.

She also pledged that Health Improvement Scotland, the new scrutiny and improvement body for the NHS, will carry out a programme of inspections at hospitals to ensure standards are met.

The announcements came as the Scottish Government published two major documents under Scotland’s first national dementia strategy. The first one, Standards Of Care For Dementia, sets out how people with dementia should be treated. The second document, Promoting Excellence, is intended to ensure the standards are met by staff.

“Quality, compassionate care for older people that protects their dignity and independence, is one of the most sacred duties of any civilised society,” said Ms Sturgeon. “It is something I believe we generally do well — but that is not good enough. We must do it well for every older person on every occasion, in care homes and in hospitals.

“I consider improving care for older people — whether that means ensuring the implementation of the dementia standards, making sure older people are treated with care and compassion wherever they are and whatever their diagnosis, or better joining up health and social care — to be a personal priority.”

She added that reshaping care for older people will be a “huge challenge”.

“Our £70 million Change Fund is a crucial part of that effort but we will not rest on our laurels,” she said. “We will sustain the profile of this issue throughout the term of parliament, as we all have a responsibility to ensure we deliver on our shared commitment to see real improvements in the care people experience right now-and in the future.”

Henry Simmons, chief executive of Alzheimer Scotland, said the initiatives could “greatly improve” the way dementia patients are cared for.

He added, “We must now ensure that this translates into practice and that we start to see immediate improvements in the quality of life for people with dementia and their families, particularly in our acute general hospitals, community and residential care services.”

Mrs V died on December 19, 2008, having been transferred from a mental health hospital to Ninewells Hospital at the end of October that year. During her time in hospital she received almost 100 doses of four different drugs, including 57 rectal administrations of diazepam.