Thursday 14 January 2010

Use internet sites to rate care and prevent abuse, says Dignity Ambassador

Department of Health's Dignity Ambassador urges patients, relatives and carers to use internet reviews and ratings to support elderly care: ‘Sir Michael Parkinson: Blow the whistle on poor treatment of elderly’.

The Daily Telegraph reports how Sir Michael Parkinson, the Department of Health’s Dignity Ambassador for the past year, has being appalled at stories of poor treatment in care homes and the NHS, with the elderly left exposed and unable to eat food put before them. He urged the public to get involved and report unacceptable treatment of the elderly but also to praise staff who go the extra mile and provide care with dignity and compassion. He made specific reference to using quality internet sites which give patients, visitors and carers a new way to record their gratitude or raise concerns of dissatisfaction.

The public must appreciate the very real power that they have in making changes happen at the front line in care homes. This power comes from using internet sites that transparently show the experience of other users, their visitors and their families. This ‘power’ to affect change is, however, not a dictatorial power; it has two important dimensions. Firstly it allows care home staff to have a 360 degree assessment of their performance, adding a vital component to assessing what is good performance and how this should be rewarded and what is poor performance and how this can be actively managed to improve. Secondly, and probably most importantly, the power is in making services better and safer for the elderly. Families and carers continuously rating and reviewing care provides a uniquely sensitive barometer for frontline staff and managers to assess when quality of care is starting to slide. When managers have early access to this information the public rating and review has the power to prevent the often disastrous human impact, and expense, that comes from poor quality care.

This is a new age and provides hope for real improvement. Online, real-time, continuous ratings - with all feedback being openly available - gives families of the elderly transformational power to effect enormous change in the frontline services that are delivered to their relatives. As one famous elderly person would have said, "Use the Force".

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