Plans for hospitals to appoint a 'dignity nurse' have been dropped after the proposal was 'misinterpreted'.

Plans for hospitals to appoint a 'dignity nurse' have been dropped after the proposal was 'misinterpreted'.

Professor Ian Philp, national director for older people's services, told HSJ that ministers have decided to go back on the idea of giving a senior nurse in each trust the responsibility for ensuring that older people are treated with dignity.

Instead, the entire organisation and all the nursing staff within it will share accountability, with the commissioning framework and the inspection regime altered to make dignity a higher priority for trusts.

Dignity nurses, as they were dubbed in the media, were originally outlined in April's follow-up to the national service framework for older people. It called for the development of leaders 'accountable for ensuring older people are treated with respect for their dignity'.

This week Professor Philp said: 'The dignity nurse idea was misinterpreted by the press, which described it as a new role. And there was the danger that other nurses may have thought it absolved them of their responsibilities.

'In fact the organisation as a whole will be accountable,' he said.

He said trusts would be rated in future on whether they had a dignity regime in place. This would include a strict regime for reporting severe breaches, but also a transparent complaints policy to ensure that less serious breaches can be stamped out.

Picker Institute Europe has been brought in to advise Professor Philp and the Healthcare Commission on what information is needed for inspectors to regulate this area.

'We need better patient involvement so we can identify bad practice and enable the commission to see what is going well and what is not.'

The Department of Health is to rewrite the commissioning framework to encourage commissioners to use only providers with a strong track record on dignity, Professor Philp said. And work is ongoing with the Royal College of Nursing to ensure that dignity care is a central issue for workforce development.

Next month the government will launch a new Dignity in Care campaign. A toolkit will offer best-practice examples for trusts. Professor Philp said ministers were considering issuing a 12-point guide on dignity to be circulated to all trusts.