Talking about dignity

Joan Wilks
Joan Wilks
Staff and patients discuss dignity in care
Staff and patients discuss dignity in care

Staff and patients got together across the trust recently to discuss the importance of dignity in care.

Events, which celebrated Dignity Action Day on 1 February, were held at the Bracton Centre, our medium secure unit and at Step Up Step Down (SUSD), Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup and West Thamesmead's Bevan Unit, which both provide care for anyone over 18 years old who is finding it difficult at home or who needs support and rehabilitation before returning home from hospital. In Woolwich the Contraception and Sexual Health Service (CASH) based at the Market Street Health Centre also took part and staff from Adult Complex Mental Health and Learning Disabilities marked the day by unannounced visits to community mental health team sites in Bexley, Bromley and the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

Dignity Action Day is an annual event organised by the National Dignity Council's Dignity in Care Campaign whose goal is to put dignity and respect at the heart of UK care services. The day aims to ensure people who use care services are treated as individuals and are given choice, control and a sense of purpose in their daily lives.

Purple being the theme for the day staff wore purple clothes, purple dignity rosettes at CASH and there was even a dignity cake with purple icing at the Bevan Unit.

Patients at SUSD enjoyed group activities such as watching TV and playing board games while at the Bracton staff and patients from all clinics got together to discuss projects including a patient led welcome pack for Heath Clinic, healthy meal planning, engaging patients in their care planning and a 'what dignity means to me' message board. A CD made by patients on their views about respect was also played with Aretha Franklin's famous song 'Respect' playing in the background. Comments from people visiting CASH who took part in a dignity survey included: "A great service. Very friendly staff who put you at ease" and: "I'm always treated with dignity when I come to CASH." In their unannounced visits to sites across the trust, Julia Ives, Practice Development Nurse and Linda Pearce, Service User and Carer Consultation Manager, conducted a snap survey of service users and carers. A resounding 96% of people said they had been treated with dignity and respect.

In the Bevan Unit, Activities Coordinator Christiana Olomo organised a full day for patients and staff. She said: "It's an opportunity to remind carers, nurses and anyone who attends to patients what dignity is about. It's about listening to patients, finding out what dignity means to them and how we can improve the services we offer them."

The main event of the day was a fascinating discussion between staff and patients in which patients told staff what dignity meant to them. Joan Wilks, who was admitted recently, praised the staff and said she would recommend the service to others, but explained that things had not started out so well: “When I was transferred from the hospital to the Bevan I had no idea where I was going or how long the journey would take. And when I arrived I was sat down for two hours before anyone explained things to me. I felt very scared and lonely. I didn’t even know if I had a bed to go to. It would have made such a difference if someone had had a friendly chat with me and shown me to my room sooner.”

Staff explained that Joan had arrived at a busy time but agreed that they could have spared five minutes to talk to her and committed to do this in similar situations in future.

After lunch singer Julia Bennett entertained everyone with a selection of pop songs spanning the 1950s to the 1990s and the patients elected healthcare assistants Wendy Parker and Gus Paul as Dignity Champions.

The Dignity in Care campaign has over 40,000 registered Dignity Champions dedicated to ensuring people have a good experience of care when they need it. They include councillors, staff at all levels in NHS and social care, volunteers, service users, their carers and members of the public. For more information about the campaign, please go to

Published on 5th February 2013