Unannounced spot checks in acute hospitals have had a cautious welcome from managers after a report exposed failures in patient dignity.
The Healthcare Commission has announced it will call without warning on NHS wards where patients, relatives or patient groups have complained over privacy or respect.
The health watchdog today released a report, Dignity in Care, which found 'considerable need for improvement in many areas' in the way older people are treated.
It says acute trusts need to 'ensure that their policies and procedures on dignity become an integral part of their care process'.
The report draws on inpatient surveys and complaints, plus assessments of 23 trusts where inspections revealed risk of non-compliance with government standards.
It found no major breaches but concluded that policies are not always translated into practice. For example, not all trusts can provide single-sex accommodation, washing and toilet facilities at all times.
NHS Confederation deputy policy director policy Jo Webber said it was 'about making sure patient dignity is embedded in everything an organisation does. Spot checks won't do that but good board-level policies will'.
West Suffolk Hospital trust chief executive Chris Brown said spot checks were a way of keeping people on their toes but was not sure they would 'actually improve standards'.