GIVEN how societies are judged on the compassion that they afford to the most vulnerable, it does not reflect well on Britain that NHS nurses and carers could be asked to sign a code of conduct guaranteeing that they will treat the elderly with respect.
Those advocating such a change cannot be dismissed by the Government as the ‘usual suspects’ – the signatories include Paul Burstow, the current Care Services Minister, and Liz Kendall, his opposite number from Labour’s benches. Yet the very fact that there is cross-party support suggests that there is genuine concern that too many senior citizens are being denied the dignity they deserve, and particularly at mealtimes. They should not be ignored or “passed like parcels” within a fragmented care network. However two points need to be considered. Firstly, will a code of conduct prevent neglect from taking place – and the key word here is ‘prevent’? And, secondly, has the time come for care of the elderly to be the responsibility of one separate Ministry so the issue moves up the political agenda? At the moment, it has become lost in the ongoing political free-for-all over Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s reforms.