The NHS's attitude towards older people is in need of 'urgent' change, the health service ombudsman has warned.
In a damning report, Ann Abraham said that in some cases even the most basic needs of patients are not being met by health professionals.
Ms Abraham investigated 10 complaints involving the treatment of people aged over 65 in England and said that these cases of neglect were not isolated.
The complaints related to several NHS trusts and two GP practices, and revealed failures to provide the most fundamental aspects of care, such as clean and comfortable surroundings, help with eating, drinking water provision and the ability to call someone who will respond.
There were also failures in pain control, discharge arrangements and communication with patients and their relatives, the report found.
Care services minister, Paul Burstow, said: 'This report exposes the urgent need to update our NHS.
'We need a culture where poor practice is challenged and quality is the watchword. The dignity of frail older people should never be sidelined.
'Leadership on the front line is key to driving out poor practice. The coalition's plans will free front-line staff to focus on what matters most to patients and carers.
'Increased transparency will bring greater accountability in the NHS.'
Copyright © Press Association 2011
What can be done to ensure older people are treated with dignity? Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"I think start teaching and requiring respect from the word go – even secondary school is too late. My son in law's grandma went in to hosp as a sprightly octogenarian and several days of apparently little food and water came out semi demented and even after some months of care in a home is still a shadow of her former self. This is gross negligence and should be dealt with as such. Those running wards should be accountable. Also at what age does one become invisible and idiotic? Post major abdo surgery I rang to try to get some analgesia and got tutted at for my pains and when i dared refuse a medication they had been informed I was allergic too! I am in my 50s, am I now so old I do am no longer worthy of respect? What age exactly does that happen? Complain insist on decent treatment either as patient or relation and escalate if you do not get it. Heaven knows people are quick enough to complain about GPs. Time to knock hospital care off its too often undeserved pedestal" – Name and address withheld
"Adequate training for qualified and unqualified staff. More trained care staff (unqualified) to assist qualified staff with personal care, assisting with eating and drinking and general care and cleanliness of areas where elderly patients are. While I am keen to develop services I think it would be beneficial to look back to a time when wards were managed by a senior ward sister and had ward orderliess with responsibility for ensuring cleanliness, changing iced water regularly, etc. Nursing auxiliaries who helped with all aspects of patient care but who under the direction of a qualified nurse had specific duties to assist patients with eating and drinking and personal care. (There may be a role for voluntary organisations.)" – Chris Wilson, Newcastle
"Teach respect for people in general in schools, particularly in secondary and FE. Don't tolerate insolence and don't make young people right because they are young and don't know any better. Give them the skills to know better. Respect as we know is earned so the older person should respect the younger person but it is not a one way street" – Brenda Young, South Yorkshire