Commenting on news that nursing staff may ask relatives to care for elderly hospital patients, Dr Ros Altmann, Director-General of over-50s group Saga, said:
"The suggestion of hospital nurses relying on patients' visitors to care for them is astonishing. If patients are in hospital then it is hospital staff who surely have a duty of care to look after patients' needs such as feeding them and ensuring they are clean, washed and dry.
"The problem here is that too many older people end up in acute hospital beds when they really should be cared for elsewhere, but in our current healthcare system the NHS is the default safety net which looks after people when no other care setting is in place. This is a massive waste of resources and definitely sub-optimal for patients too.
"A greater use of publicly-funded domiciliary care for those without acute medical problems could save the NHS a fortune while also improving quality of life for older people.
"Many older patients do not want to be in hospital and these comments suggest some nurses - a minority, I suspect - don't want them there either. What a sorry state of affairs.
"Happily, we do see many examples of wonderful dedicated nursing staff who look after older patients marvellously, but clearly there are strains within our system. A greater emphasis on domiciliary and other social care would be better for many patients, could prevent or shorten hospital stays and save billions of pounds for the NHS.
"The sooner we recognise the need to properly reform social care and integrate this with the Heath Service, the better. We need to ensure better public and private funding for care and reform is long overdue. Andrew Dilnot has offered part of the solution, and we must get on with implementation and integration as soon as possible."
For more information, please contact the Saga Press Office on 01303 771529.