Report found ‘truly appalling and shocking’ levels of care for the elderly
A recent report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) published on October 13th found ‘truly appalling and shocking’ low levels of care for the elderly during spot visits to hospitals throughout the UK. It described over half of all hospitals failing to meet basic standards for dignity and provision of nutrition to elderly patients while one in five had broken the law with respect to protecting the dignity and adequate feeding of older patients. Nurses were failing to check whether patients had eaten during meal-times and whether they had sufficient fluid intake with some hospital staff sometimes having to prescribe drinking water on medication charts to ‘ensure people get regular drinks.’ Call bells were being put out of reach, patients were ignored for hours at times, some were taken to the toilet in full view of others on the ward or left exposed, and incontinent patients were sometimes left in their own urine or faeces for over a hour.
The highly critical report also showed that staff did not treat patients with kindness and compassion, often talking to elderly patients in a condescending and dismissive way. Dame Jo Williams, the commission’s chair, said, ‘Too often our inspectors saw the delivery of care treated as a task that needed to be completed. Those responsible for the training and development of staff, particularly in nursing, need to look long and hard at why the focus has become the unit of work rather than the person who needs to be looked after.’
While the finding of this report has stirred up discussion as to the reasons for such shocking findings, no one can offer suitable reasons why a healthcare service which has been hailed as one of the best in the world, seemingly still cannot tackle the basic treatment of its patients. One reason offered was that the elderly are living much longer and therefore their ailments are ongoing for longer periods of time, leaving health professionals unsure of how to deal with longer periods of illness amongst patients.
The reality of such an excuse shows how when adequate reasons cannot be found, it seems perfectly excusable to blame the victims for living too long rather than address the real causes of the growth of a culture of neglect towards the most vulnerable within society. What is closer to the truth is that no matter how much money is invested and progress attributed to an institution as noble and altruistic as the health service, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It lives within a capitalist culture and society which is suffering from a perpetual empathy drought. Consequently the erosion of values such as care, compassion, and humanity, will naturally affect every aspect and institution within society, including the health service.
Capitalist societies are imbibed in a culture which sanctifies materialism, over that of human life. Capitalist values have reared generations who ascribe more importance on goods and services than they do on human dignity, and nurtured an individualistic mindset moulded upon the pursuit of self-interest rather than care and concern for the needs of others. Therefore it is no great surprise that within such an environment that sees everything in monetary terms, many have no time nor money for the elderly, viewing them as being of limited value to the economy and hence a burden to society rather than honouring them as a great asset to any community with respect to their wisdom and life experiences. Nor is it surprising that under a system that fails to appreciate the value of ‘profitless’ qualities such as respect, kindness, compassion, and patience, that the mistreatment and neglect of the elderly is endemic even within a hospital environment and that those who are sick and need looking after are simply one category in a long list of those suffering from an absence of compassion and attention.
Hence whether lack of government expenditure on healthcare, poor NHS or hospital leadership, or inadequate training of nurses to care for the elderly are cited as reasons for this appalling situation, they are all reflections of the same thing – capitalism’s complete failure to give importance to basic human needs that cannot be measured by the pound.
In stark contrast, Islam considers the value attached to human life and dignity as key to the progress of any civil society. Concepts such as compassion, kindness, dignity and respect for human life are firm tenets in Islam and are fundamentally unchangeable within an Islamic society. Furthermore, Islam’s view of the elderly is that they should be held with a status of respect and honour as according to the statement of the Prophet(peace be upon him), ‘He is not one of us who does not have mercy on young children, nor honour the elderly.’ It is crucially important that the values which permeate a society be ones which value human life and dignity above and beyond any material progress. This is one of the core reasons as to why so many are turning to Islam as an alternative to the Western capitalist liberal way of life, understanding that the true success of any way of life must lie with the value it attaches to human life.
Women’s Deputy Media Representative, Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain