Nurses have urged the governments in England and Scotland to create a commissioner for older people post to help act as an ‘independent champion’ for people in later life.
A debate held at the Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) annual congress today saw members overwhelmingly pass a motion which called on the college’s governing council to lobby for the appointment of a commissioner for older people in England and Scotland, as there is in Wales and Northern Ireland. It was passed with 595 votes in favour and only six against.
Mental health nurse Rosemary Oji proposed the motion on behalf of the RCN’s Eastern branch and said: ‘Too often older people’s rights and interests are forgotten by decision makers.’
While Northern Ireland and Wales both have an older people’s commissioner responsible for protecting the rights of people aged 60 and over, neither England nor Scotland currently has such a post.
Ms Oji said that the UK was currently facing ‘an unprecedented crisis’ caused by an ageing population.
She warned that ‘not everyone enjoys a financially secure retirement’, adding: ‘Indeed an alarming number are struggling to make ends meet.’
Ms Oji called on the governments in England and Scotland to establish the commissioner role to act as ‘an independent champion for older people’ and to ‘ensure that policy and practice across government considers the long-term needs of people in later life’.
The creation of the commissioner role would enable ‘equality’ across the four countries in the UK, said Ms Oji. She added that had personally witnessed the difference between care provided to friends and relatives in their 80s in England, compared to Wales where the commissioner role exists.
The motion was widely supported by members, and many expressed serious concerns that the rights of older people in England and Scotland were being overlooked.
Dr Denise Chaffer, former RCN president, said: ‘We need to give a much greater voice to our older population.’
She reflected on her ‘personal experience’ with relatives in the adult social care system in the last three years and had seen how confusing and expensive the system could be for older people.
‘We need to do more work with advanced care planning, we need to have much more support with our paramedics, with our joined up digital systems…and our end-of-life care is incredibly under pressure and the moment and getting worse.’
Nurses also highlighted the important impact that the commissioners in Wales and Northern Ireland have had on the lives of older people.
Patricia Hughes, who represents the RCN at the National Pensioners Convention, said that the commissioners of Wales and Northern Ireland have ‘already had a significant impact on the lives of older people’.
‘In Wales for example, they have helped produce a new code of practice for care homes, ensured that older people are more aware of their rights and how to complain, and ensured that older people are more involved in decision making,’ she told the conference.
The governments in England and Scotland have been approached for comment.