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Dignity: A Tale of Two Wards

12 November 2012

Fiona Phillips

A hard-hitting film portrayal of poor standards and care practices in older people's acute hospital care has been officially launched by University Honorary Fellow and journalist, Fiona Phillips.

Dignity: A Tale of Two Wards is a new educational film developed by a team from the University's Centre for the Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics (CESAGen).

The well-known TV journalist has shared her own personal experience of care for the elderly after she lost both of her parents to Alzheimer's.

Fiona Phillips said: "There have been a number of disturbing reports about
undignified care for older people recently, despite there being numerous guidelines and codes demanding dignified care.

"It is clear there is a gap between such aspirations and the reality and more must be done to help frontline staff who deliver hands on care and interact with older patients and their relatives, as they have the biggest impact on the patient's experience of being in hospital.

"That is why I am delighted to launch this DVD as it speaks directly to those staff and helps them to reflect on their actions as well as showing what dignified, person-centred care for older people looks like in any ward or hospital and contrasts this in a realistic and practical way with care that falls short of the required standard."

The DVD uses dramatic portrayal of examples of good and poor care observed on hospital wards during a key piece of research, which resulted in the team's Dignity in Practice report.

"Our research illustrated that there are some excellent and shocking standards of hospital care for older people in acute NHS wards in England and Wales," according to Dr Win Tadd, School of Social Sciences who led the research.

"What we found were variable standards including poorly designed, confusing and inaccessible wards, demoralised staff who had had little training in delivering care for older people and patients frequently being moved to meet shifting clinical priorities.

"Having identified how, in the hustle and bustle of a busy ward, it is difficult for staff to stand back and reflect on their own and others' practices and actions, the Cardiff team developed the DVD to raise awareness of how every interaction has the potential to either enhance or detract from older people's experience of dignified care.

"We hope that re-creating our findings using drama to portray two sides of the story will help change attitudes and ways of working amongst healthcare professionals to improve older people's care," she added.

The film was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Service Delivery Organisation (NIHR-SDO) and managed by the Department of Health and Comic Relief.