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Boosting care for the elderly

The NHS is to set clear standards of care for older people. Frank Dobson says the standards will be specified in a 'national service framework' which will apply to the whole of the NHS. Work on preparing the standards is already under way. In the meantime, Mr Dobson has written to all hospital chief executives on the need for high quality care for the elderly. 'My message to them is that, for a start, they really must ensure that the basics - such as clean dry sheets and proper standards and provision of food and drink - are available to all patients', said Mr Dobson.

He also renewed his attack on mixed sex wards. He said he was determined to stop the building of such wards, to protect the dignity and privacy of patients: 'By 2002 we will have cut the number of mixed sex wards from one in three to just one in twenty'. The Royal Commission on the Long-Term Care of the Elderly is due to present its report early in the new year. The government's Foresight Programme, which helps determine policies for investment in the UK's science, engineering and technology, has identified ageing as a key area for development.

People in the UK are living longer but they are experiencing an increased number of years with disease or disability; the average health of the UK has not improved with longer life. The programme has sought to increase the awareness of ageing as an issue within the academic and industrial communities and to increase the level of research. The UN has designated 1999 the Year of Older Persons.

Sources: Press release (DoH), Biologist November 1998

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