Report: dignity in hospital care

Everyone receiving care in hospital should be treated with respect and dignity. We asked hospital staff and older patients who had recently had a stay in a Bristol hospital to tell us about their experience of care and what dignity means to them.
A woman helping a male patient in a hospital bed shave his facial hair

Independence. Privacy. Choice. These are all words that people told us define what being treated with dignity in a hospital setting means to them.

Through telephone interviews, focus groups, and an online survey, patients aged 55 and over told us what they valued about their recent inpatient hospital stay. They mentioned the importance of staff being discrete about a patient's diagnosis, asking for their preferences regarding personal care, and good communication around any plans for discharge and aftercare.

Patients also told us about the times that they felt stripped of their dignity. Two patients who are profoundly deaf and required BSL interpreters found no interpreters present when they came into hospital for a medical procedure. Another patient who speaks English as a second language had to rely on her daughter to translate for her.

It’s about talking with somebody rather than talking about a piece of anatomy, or a skeleton…they’re seeing you as an object, they look at you and talk about you as an object, as a particular disease or something and you are in a sense then not part of that process.
— Male patient, aged 80

Our research was assisted by a wide range of grassroots voluntary and community organisations in the local area. An accompanying information leaflet about this project was also translated into Somali.

Our recommendations

  • Providers incorporate the views of patients, families and carers, from culturally diverse communities, to inform dignity practices in hospital care.
  • Providers define what the elements are within hospital care procedures that impact on patients’ experience of dignity.
  • Establish good practice around dignity needs and embed this in induction training and ongoing professional development for staff.
  • For patients with a sensory impairment, or a language barrier, flag up their communication needs in admission notes and medical notes, and on the NHS Connecting Care Records system.
  • Patients to routinely be made aware of the Trusts’ interpreting service, which is available by telephone, to ensure communication needs are addressed at admission and discharge for those with English as a second language.
  • Ensure that professionals use the Connecting Care system with its ability to flag patients’ needs, such as for a British Sign Language interpreter if they are hearing impaired or have other communication needs addressed.

Sarah Dodds, Deputy Chief Nurse at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston
NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Dignity in respecting the diverse needs of our patients, their families and carers is an important aspect of how we provide excellent care and support in our hospitals. We welcome this report and the recommendations contained within particularly as it offers valuable fresh perspectives from patients and service users."

Maria Kane, Chief Executive of North Bristol Trust, said: "We value this report, and as such, have shared it across all of our Divisions. In addition, it has also been discussed at our June Divisional Patient Experience Leads meeting. The report was used to explore how we share the feedback and learning to help improve dignity on our various wards and in our departments."

You can download our full report below.


Dignity in hospital care

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