“Preach what you Practice”

Somewhat ironically Esmee Russell recently published a blog on the Age UK website entitled “Food for Thought”.   It reflects the comments Age UK received when they attended the Royal College of Nursing Conference, in response to questions about why older patients are malnourished in the NHS.   According to some statistics, 185,000 people left hospital in 2008-09 malnourished .

The usual excuses were trotted out by the nurses they spoke to:-

  • “The food is poor quality”
  • “We need more money spent on food”
  • “Meal times are too short”
  • “There are not enough nurses to feed residents who need help”

These are hardly rocket science matters to solve, so what is fundamentally behind the issue?  The basic problem is a lack of leadership.  The nursing profession has been deflected by the RCN into chasing academic qualifications at the expense of patient care.  Meanwhile, the RCN has also tied NHS managers in knots over rigid personnel practices and a concern for their own liability, rather than ensuring that the patients’ needs come first.

The nurse matrons of old would never have allowed this to happen !

There is a supreme irony in Age UK reporting on this, especially when they had earlier produced a very good report on malnutrition in the NHS.

At their own Annual Conference, “Agenda for Later Life 2011”, they had a perfect opportunity to question Jo Webber, the Deputy Director of the National Health Confederation, who was one of their platform speakers.  Instead, they allowed her to tell everyone how well the NHS was doing,  how committed the staff were to learning lessons and  how patient satisfaction was very high.

Whether out of wrong-headed politeness or misplaced tactics, there was not a murmur about malnutrition and Jo Webber walked away with her head still in the clouds.

If malnutrition doesn’t stir Age UK into some firebrand preaching, what will?

                                               Where is the Age UK rage?

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3 Responses to “Preach what you Practice”

  1. Jon Cleaver says:

    “Leadership” the buck stops here. My own knowledge of the NHS is gleaned over many years of experience both as an in patient and visitor. I have often joked that I must hold shares in Walsgrave Hospital (now University Hospital) Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital and the old Kersley Hospital, closed in the 1950s.

    Until 1971 the ‘Matron’ was law, judge, jury and hangman. This group of hand picked people, SMF the Special Matron Force, often referred to by their pet name as Battle Axe in Chief, controlled literally every aspect of the profession; from nursing, caring feeding, cleaning, changing dressings and bed pan duty, usually the starting point for many budding Florence nightingale’s. Nurses were inspected daily, correct dress code was paramount, woe-betide anyone who stepped out of line.

    Under reorganisation, (dare I use this term) Matron was made redundant. Out went leadership of great quality and a very special position within the nursing profession, where the overseer, controller of everything connected with caring was lost. In my view, it left a work force rather like a ship without a rudder. People who had little knowledge of a hands on approach were given posts and closed off offices, (Matron very often sat at the top end of the ward) from which to control the ground forces.

    In 2004 the government of the day, realising the big mistake of not having a matron, brought them back, 500 hundred initially, unfortunately Human rights was beginning to rear its ugly head and no longer could they wield the big stick of old, they became a ‘token symbol’ without power.

    What can Age UK do or say in all of this. Yes, I wish they would show more fire in the belly, about many things that are wrong with the NHS, but because of hand tying, legislation, being frightened to speak out for fear of being taken to court, they either remain quiet on the issues that matter, or watch, make a token noise and do nothing.

    John, what would we give for 500 Rene Gardeners today!

    Jon C

    • John Graham says:

      Sadly, there is only one Rene Gardner. However, she had many admirers and pupils, and the high standards she set have lived on in so many of the nursing and care staff that worked for her.
      It is not that it cannot be done today, it is just that it requires integrity, confidence, and most of all a passion for looking after older people.

  2. vicar says:

    It is I believe, or may is down to time? The older patient needs time to eat and enjoy nourishment, and a regimented scheme of kitchens, meal times and the lack of staff to offer assistance at such times is I think cruicial to the well being of each patient. What is needed is not Nurses with lots of qualifications (Who should lead on the ward), but dedicated auxilary staff and or volunteers/family to be around at meal times to talk and enjoy a meal with the infirmed. As you say John not Rocket Science just compassion and good management.

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