Lead Nurse for Dementia Alison Webb knocking on a bed cubicle before entering, which is one of the ideas being promoted on Dignity Day at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Dignity matters to staff and patients at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King’s Lynn

Tuesday, February 5, 2013
11.48 AM

NHS staff and patients took part in a special day of action, to highlight the importance of dignity in hospital.

Both were asked their views on what improvements could be made at a coffee morning and afternoon tea party at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

People could also jot down their views and hang them on a special dignity tree, while displays near the hospital’s main entrance highlighted changes which have already been made at the QEH.

“We’ve been doing a lot of work on dignity,” said Valerie Newton, the QEH’s deputy director of patient experience. “We’ve drawn up a dignity code with all nursing and medical staff adhere to.”

Miss Newton said a number of changes had already been made in response to feedback from patients and visitors.

“Before anybody goes behind a curtain now, they’re asked to say ‘knock knock’ before they go in,” she said. Patients are no longer moved between wards after 11pm and the time-honoured hospital gowns have been modified so that they fasten to the side, rather than the rear, sparing the wearer’s modesty.

In response to calls for more emphasis to be placed on the care of patients suffering from dementia, Alison Webb has been appointed lead nurse for dementia at the hospital. An awareness campaign about the debilitating condition is being launched next month.

Dignity champions are also being appointed to keep an eye on any issues which impact the dignity of patients, visitors or staff at the QEH.

The watchndog will be able to “challenge any behaviour compromising an individual’s dignity”.

“You don’t have to be health-related to do it,” said Miss Newton. “Anyone can be a dignity champion.”

The hospital’s dignity code states it will “maintain comfort, consideration, inclusion, participation and a sense of purpose in all aspects of care” and “respect individuals’ habits, values, cultural backgrounds and any needs, linguistic or otherwise”.

It says it will not tolerate Individuals being abused or not respected in any way, or “individuals being treated as objects or being spoken about as if they were not present”.

Many QEH staff have contributed their thoughts to the campaign, by placing on record what dignity means to them.

“When a nurse listens and reassures a confused patient or takes time to quietly hold the hand of a patient who has just received bad news - that’s dignity,” said Merwyn Agcaoili, a charge nurse at the hospital.

Matron Claire Kent added: “Dignity is a basic human right. It is integral to nursing, not an optional extra.”

Head chef Stuart Nimmo said dignity was “treating people how you would like to be treated yourself,

with respect no matter what colour, religion or disability”.

Consultant physician Pradip Sarda said: “Dignity to me means treating patients with respect, whether they have or lack capacity.”

Learning disability liaison nurse Maria Cox said: “Dignity to me means treating everyone as equals,

but valuing their differences.”

Lacie Peacock, dental laboratory assistant, said: “To me, dignity is upholding moral standards while serving patients in any situation.”