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Older people

Welcome to the RCN's older people resource. This brings together a range of resources that can inform and support care for older people: information and publications from work that the RCN has been carrying out on older people's care; examples of good practice in caring for older people; links to the work of key organisations that support and promote good care; literature and resources.

Launched on 3 December 2012: Improving hospital care for older people: a call for action (PDF 569KB) [see: how to access PDF files].

RCN Older People's project

During 2011-2012 the RCN conducted a major project into hospital care for older people. The project, led by older people's adviser Nicky Hayes, aimed to:

Nicky and the project team are committed to supporting nurses and working with stakeholders to effect positive change in care for older people.

Safe staffing for older people's wards

A range of reports have highlighted concerns about older people’s human rights, dignified care and hospital experience. New guidance from the RCN, Safe staffing for older people’s wards, launched at an RCN older people conference in Manchester on 20 March 2012, underlines these concerns – RCN evidence suggests that older people, despite often having the most complex needs, regularly suffer from a severe shortage of nurses and health care assistants (HCAs), coupled with an inappropriate skill mix of HCAs to nurses.

Safe staffing for older people's wards draws on the further evidence gathered through a survey of nurses who work on older people’s wards, nurse focus groups, a panel of expert nurses across the UK, stakeholder consultation and literature review, and sets out a threshold of staffing levels below which care becomes compromised on older people's wards. It provides guidance and recommendations for the provision of good quality compassionate and safe nursing care for older people in hospital, and identifies what is needed to meet the expectations of patients, nurses and the public, both now and in the future.

The full report and summary guidance are available below, along with the RCN toolkit and safe staffing for older people's wards calculator:

A separate policy briefing, published by the RCN on 20 March 2012, presents the RCN’s position summarising the case for moving to a system of mandated safe staffing levels. The briefing provides an overview of the evidence around nurse staffing levels and the experiences of other countries who have introduced mandatory nurse-to-patient ratios. Safe staffing for older people's wards looks at how staffing ratios can be applied in the care of older people in hospital. To read the policy briefing see Mandatory nurse staffing: RCN policy briefing 03/12 (PDF 408.6KB).

RCN Older People Forum conference

The safe staffing guidance was launched at this conference held on 20 March 2012. The conference was entitled Older people's nursing: current challenges and future potentials and the programme highlighted potentials for addressing key challenges through developing new approaches, partnerships, environments, tools for care or ways of working. You can view a range of the presentations at conference presentations.    

The best practice gallery

The RCN recognises that there is a huge amount of good practice in older people's care to celebrate and share - we would like to endorse a positive approach to achieving excellence through publishing examples of good practice. We'd like to invite nurses to contact us if they have further examples to share. Please email us at: qualityandsafety@rcn.org.uk. For further information see Best practice gallery.

We have asked people to map their good practice examples on to the RCN Principles of Nursing Practice. These are fundamental to understanding good care for older people. The examples on these pages illustrate how good care meets these Principles - see Best practice examples

If you have any comments or enquiries regarding this resource please contact us at: qualityandsafety@rcn.org.uk.