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Government plans "zero tolerance" to abuse of the old

By Staff
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LONDON, Apr 20 (Reuters) The government announced plans today to crack down on mistreatment of older people in hospitals and care homes, pledging a ''zero tolerance'' approach to what it concedes is a persistent problem.

Tougher inspections will be introduced and every home will have to have a senior nurse responsible for fighting ge discrimination and promoting dignity in care.

Changing the often negative culture of attitudes towards older people is a priority, said Care Services Minister Liam Byrne.

''We need zero tolerance of these views and a target that in five years' time no older person or their carers will be treated with anything other than dignity,'' he added in a statement.

Age charities pressed for the recommendations to be enacted as soon as possible.

''Not one more older person should suffer undignified, inequitable or disconnected healthcare,'' Age Concern said.

Reported problems include lack of respect for older people in homes and unwillingness to help them with basic functions like eating or washing.

''For too long, many older people have continued to experience care which fails to treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve and have been seen as mere passive recipients of care,'' said Help The Aged in a statement.

The plans were launched by professor Ian Philp, the Department of Health's National Director for Older People. There is no new money for them.

According to government figures, by next year there will be more people over 65 than under 18. The over-85s are the fastest-growing segment of the population, set to double in number by 2020.

''Although overt age discrimination is now uncommon in our care system, there are still deep-rooted negative attitudes towards older people,'' Philp wrote in a report introducing the plans.

The plans include a greater focus on nutrition, improving end-of-life care and encouraging people to be healthy in old age.

Reuthers SHB BST1644

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