Almost weekly, it seems, we get a new report on care of the elderly in hopsitals or care homes, and every time the same principles are reiterated: that every elederly person is entitled to respect, to be treated as an individual and that all nurses and doctors should treat them with compassion.
But how novel a concept is this? What really beggars belief is that it needs to be studied and discussed at all! Surely ALL nursing care should start from the premise of compassion and all treatment within the health service should be based on respect?
It doesn't matter how young or old you are, we would all surely expect that when we're sick and in need of help, the people looking after us would have our best interests at heart. In an ideal world they wouldn't need training in compassion and lessons in respect. You have to wonder what has happened that these things need to be taught.
It's hard to believe anyone without compassion would go into nursing, or the medical profession, and yet we've all seen them: those busy people who treat patients as a nuisance rather than a 'customer', who fly on past their beds when all they want is to be able to reach their drink of water, or who scold them for being 'demanding' or rough-handle them when turning them over.
And yet we've all also met those wonderful angels who stop by every bed and listen to their patients concerns, who hold their hands and reassure them, who work on past the normal hours of their shift for they want to give the very best care.
My own daughter-in-law is one of those. She entered the profession because she really cares about looking after poorly children. I'm sure she's a wonderfully compassionate nurse. I know for sure that she often stays on after her 12 hour shift should have finished, because she often gets home late. She has to put up with a weird mixture of broken nights and muddled sleep patterns because of shift work, and she has to mix this all in with bringing up a young family for part of the week.
Yet she loves her job and wouldn't do anything else. She's obviously in it for the right reasons and we need more like her. But surely we also need leadership from the top – a hospital ethos which explains clearly and fully how to treat patients? We need to learn to recruit only those that truly care. And above all we need to employ enough well-trained compassionate staff in every hopsital so that they have the time to be caring. It's when people are over-stretched that corners get cut. And unfortunately at the moment in this age of cuts, I dare say more and more work is going to be piled on fewer and fewer people so the chances of getting it right remain slim.