Patient Opinion working with Age Scotland

We are pleased to welcome guest blogger, Natalie Deacon from Patient Opinion to our blog to talk about how Age Scotland and Patient Opinion are working together to help improve health services in Scotland.

Patient Opinion logo

We are delighted to announce today that Age Scotland are our newest charity to use the Patient Opinion widget on their website!

Age Scotland and Patient Opinion believe your stories can really make a difference to our health services. We are excited about our collaboration and look forward together, to help get your stories heard by the right people.

Who are Patient Opinion?
Patient Opinion is an independent website about your experiences of UK health services, good or bad. We pass your stories to the right people to make a difference.We are a not for profit social enterprise and we believe that the stories of patients and carers can help improve health services across the UK.

We use the power of the web to carry the voices of patients and carers into the heart of health services. You can share your experiences of healthcare anonymously, we never disclose any information about the person who is telling the story.  All stories are published on the Patient Opinion website for everyone to read and the NHS can then respond to your comments to tell you how they are using your experiences to make services better for everyone.

We currently work with Diabetes UK, Hepatitis Scotland, Angus Long Term conditions, Chest, Heart and Stroke, Stroke Association, Fife Young Carers and many other national charity organisations.

Over74,000 stories have already been told on Patient Opinion with lots about Scotland and lots about older people.

What is the widget? If you have recently used the NHS you can use the Patient Opinion widget to share your experiences and we can pass on your thanks or concerns to the relevant health board. Patient Opinion asks the health service to respond to the feedback you share, but does not reveal your identity. The widget means it is easy and convenient to share your story with Patient Opinion though Age Scotland’s website.

See Patient Opinion in action:  We recently had a story from a patient who was having problems with the  ENT appointment booking system at Raigmore hospital. Their concerns were taken seriously and a positive change was made because of the comments they shared on the Patient Opinion website.

Tell your story today!

Are our hospitals letting down older people?

This week health watchdog Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) published a summary report of its inspections of older people’s care in acute hospitals between August 2012 and April this year.  Age Scotland’s Doug Anthoney responded.

Man with nurse

It’s reassuring that 95% of patients reported good quality of care during their stay in hospital, however we can’t ignore that 5% say otherwise, representing a large number of older people who feel let down by the NHS. 

It’s very disappointing that 6 months on from the first HIS bi-annual summary report inspectors are still finding examples of incomplete or absent paperwork proving that patients have been screened for conditions such as dementia, malnutrition and pressure sores, and that plans have been put in place to personalise management of their care accordingly.  While HIS reports, it doesn’t explain, and it is high time that the NHS in Scotland gives older people an account of why this is happening and what can be done to address the problem.  We’re particularly concerned to learn of widespread confusion around powers of attorney, where in place; with records often unclear what decisions could be made on behalf of a patient.

It’s also disappointing that among the many daily positive interactions between staff and patients there are still examples of heedless comments and careless actions that are disrespectful of patient privacy, undermine their dignity or unnecessarily interrupt their meal-times.  NHS Boards should make it clear to staff that this is simply unacceptable, and ensure on-going training reinforces the message.

There are encouraging signs that overall ward environments are improving, meal-times are becoming better protected from interruption, and staff are more proactive in seeking patient feedback on their needs.  Examples of hospitals going the extra mile to keep patients active and stimulated are particularly welcome as they help ensure when people go home they are less likely to have to return.  We would like to see this becoming the rule, and not the exception.

We also welcome evidence that inspections work, with inspectors reporting real improvements during some follow up visits. HIS’ intention to increase the number of unannounced inspections is therefore good news for Scotland’s older people and their families.

Doug Anthoney is Age Scotland Communication and Campaigns Officer.  This post is part of the ‘Tomorrow’s Fish and Chip paper’ article series reporting the hot topics Age Scotland has been discussing with the media each week, and the Charity’s response.

Tomorrow’s fish and chip paper: Time to bump up the beds?

This week the Herald Newspaper launched a campaign calling for a review of NHS beds capacity.  Age Scotland Chief Executive Brian Sloan responded.

Nurse helps woman

The Herald’s NHS: Time for Action campaign is a welcome contribution to the debate on how best to meet the health and care needs of our ageing population.  With 90% of people seen and discharged within four hours it is clear that A&E is still working well in most cases.  However, it is also evident that emergency health services are under pressure and the experience of some A&E service users is unacceptably poor. In the rush to ensure health and care services meet the challenges of changing demography, we must not be panicked into seeing an ageing population as a drain on public services.

Most older people are healthy: around two-thirds of those aged 60-74, and more than half of those aged 75 and older, report very good health, whereas for both age groups the proportion reporting very bad health is around one in 10.  And while 3000 older people need 20 or more hours of care at home each week, 40,000 are providing the same level of care for their friends and family members.

The Herald is right to ask if more beds will be needed in the future, or whether steps can be taken to bear down on demand so that the NHS of the future will be able to cope within its current capacity.  To a large extent the answers are already clear and there is a risk that a further beds review might shed little fresh light on the underlying issues.

The Scottish Government’s Public Bodies (Joint Working) Scotland Bill is laudable in its aim to tackle the disconnect between health and social care services that too often lead to unnecessary hospital admissions. But it should be underpinned by human rights principles, and the influence of Scotland’s third sector needs to be strengthened; voluntary groups and social enterprises know how to enable older people enjoy good quality of health and life in their own homes.

Furthermore, by shifting the long-term balance of resources into prevention, from encouragement and opportunities for active lifestyles that reduce the risk of falls, to community transport services that reduce social isolation, we can do far more to minimise the pressure on acute services in the first place.

The crunch question is how we can invest in these preventative services while maintaining acute and emergency care until there is clear evidence that demand has fallen. This is likely to involve increased spending now to reap the rewards later, something which will require political leadership and public buy-in.

The Herald rightly points out, people may want health services protected but are often unwilling to pay the price. A vigorous and candid debate is required to establish a consensus on how we will fund the move to more preventative health and care services and in what circumstances a reduction in beds, locally or nationally, may be the price to pay if we ourselves wish to remain out of hospital in future.

Tomorrow’s fish and chip paper

In this new regular column Doug Anthoney looks back at the week’s big news stories about later life.

Hospital corridor

Age Scotland is fortunate to be regularly approached by journalists looking for comment on news about, or relevant to, older people.  It used to be said that ‘today’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip paper,’ but in the internet age we have to be mindful that our views can circulate for a lot longer, and wider. In this column we’ll share our response to each week’s big stories; uncut by the sub-editor’s red pen.  Wherever possible our comments are based on canvassing of older people’s opinions, and on our policy research. But we’re not infallible, so please tell us if you think we’ve got it wrong (or right!)

The first big story this week was Glasgow consultant Professor Paul Knight, the new President of the British Geriatrics Society, who criticised the lack of training medial staff receive on the complex needs of older people.  Staff may decide, he said, that someone is disorientated because they are older, and not because they are ill, and so miss an opportunity to intervene.  From Healthcare Improvement Scotland’s reports on acute care for older people it’s clear that, despite many caring staff and some very good practice, too often patient assessments are incomplete, ward environments are less than ideal, and staff are at times flippant and disrespectful in talking to and about older patients.  So we agree with him that NHS staff training, both skills and attitudes, needs to be thoroughly reviewed to ensure it meets older people’s needs.

The topic of grandparents’ role in childcare was also hot, with a report showing that almost two thirds of those with a grandchild under age 16 look after them, and almost one in five doing ten or more hours childcare a week.  Are grandparents doing too much, we were asked, in effect compensating for lack of affordable childcare and declining family incomes?  Yes, we said – to an extent.

The bond between grandparents and grandchildren can be very special, and many grandparents are happy to help with caring.  However it has to be a positive choice, and older people shouldn’t feel pressured to put aside their own needs and aspirations because of society’s failings.  With figures out this week showing that the number of people in Scotland working past State Pension Age soaring by 12,000 in the last 12 months, and State Pension Age set to rise, we would also question how sustainable this is.  Government should, at the very least extend rights to request flexible working to grandparents and make parental leave transferrable to them.

Doug Anthoney is Age Scotland Communication and Campaigns Officer