Interesting times indeed - the Francis Report and Care of Older People

14 March 2013

Prof Paul Knight is President of the BGS and is Director of Medical Education and Consultant Physician at the Royal Infirmary, Glasgow.

The oft quoted expression, “may you live in interesting times”, not as approbation, but as a threat, certainly seemed to apply recently.

Apparently, it probably isn’t a Chinese proverb but appeared in a science fiction novel in the 50’s. As I was preparing my contribution to this edition of the newsletter the Francis report was released. There will be much about the report elsewhere in this and subsequent newsletters, as we consider what it means to the way we work.

Inevitably, Francis means most to colleagues working in the NHS in England, but I would urge all to review the Executive summary, not least because Robert Francis will be an invited speaker at the Belfast Spring Meeting and it will give you some context. The recommendations for regulators such as the GMC and NMC will apply UK wide and not just in England.

If I thought the devolved nations were uninterested in the topic I was swiftly disabused as I drove home. After listening to a very uncomfortable Sir David Nicholson on Radio 4, I switched to hear something a bit more cheerful on Radio Scotland, only to be treated to Professor Allyson Pollock pronouncing on the same topic. Who cannot have had an inward cringe about the details of neglect and abuse of mainly older people described by Francis and  thought, “is that going on in my unit?” and “have I inadvertently condoned it?”. I know that it was my worst nightmare as a clinical director.

In the coming weeks the BGS will developing practical strategies to aid members in their quest to develop and improve services for older people. Interesting, isn't it, that elsewhere in the news that there was a general outcry from concerned relatives that a group of vulnerable individuals, who are unsteady on their feet and often have difficulties with ADL’s and continence, were going to have their mandated staffing levels cut from 1:5 trained to client to 1:6. The difference was that the subject being talked about was pre-school nursery education. Can it be that the ills detailed in the Francis report reflect society’s general inability to value older people?

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