Human rights should be enshrined in health service delivery, according to a report calling for new duties to protect the rights of older people in hospitals and care homes.
A joint committee on human rights report this week said existing legislation does not sufficiently protect and promote the rights of older people in healthcare.
The report said it had a 'considerable volume of evidence' from inspectorates, service providers and older people expressing concerns about continuing poor treatment. These included: malnutrition and dehydration; abuse and rough treatment; lack of privacy in mixed-sex wards; lack of dignity for personal care needs; and over-hasty hospital discharge.
It also highlights that 21 per cent of care homes were still failing to meet national minimum standards for privacy and dignity three years after they were introduced.
The committee wants the government to introduce improved guidance and standards on human rights compliance. And it says the new health and social care inspectorate Ofcare should adopt a human rights framework for all of its work.
It wants to see service providers using human rights law as a positive duty on health and residential care, rather than the onus being on service users to make complaints. It suggests this should be monitored by the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights.
Committee chair Andrew Dismore MP said: 'The Human Rights Act is part of legislation but it is not used as a framework for delivery of services in hospitals and care homes.'
The Healthcare Commission agreed that human rights law has a greater role to play in ensuring older people are protected. Head of long-term conditions Amanda Hutchinson said the commission 'is exploring ways of incorporating the principles into the core standards against which it assesses NHS trusts'.
NHS Confederation chief executive Gill Morgan said the Human Rights Act could provide a framework for delivering better services.
But she warned: 'This must be translated into action at all levels to avoid turning judgements about care into a box-ticking exercise.'