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08th April 2016

Dignity and Respect

Quality, Esteem and Respect = Dignity

The other week I blogged about dignity and meeting everyone’s basic human rights. As I looked further into this topic I realised there is much more to write about promoting dignity in care and felt this warranted a full article. To recap, dignity is about quality, esteem and respect and treating people in a considerate way, whilst giving them choice and control. In order to provide dignity we must believe that being treated with dignity is a basic human right, not a luxury, and the services we provide must be compassionate, patient focused and efficient. Ginny Tyler, QCS Expert Learning Disabilities Contributor, wrote about ‘Dignity at the End’ earlier this year and how end of life care should ensure the service user is at the heart of all decisions. Ginny explained that it may be the case that you or your team are in the position of ensuring this is adhered to, so understanding the legal background and patients rights is fundamental to advocating for the best possible care.

NICE Guidelines

When searching through NICE guidelines the word ‘dignity’ shows up in so many of the pathways, from food allergies to dementia, pregnancy to cancer, and so on.  It is such a key aspect of patient care that it should be at the heart of every service we provide. NICE quality standard [QS14] Service user experience in adult mental health services, published in December 2011 states ‘People using mental health services, and their families or carers, should feel they are treated with empathy, dignity and respect.’ NICE believes there should be evidence of local arrangements to ensure that mental health and social care professional treat service users with these three important elements. The evidence from experience surveys and feedback that service users, and their families or carers, feel they are treated with empathy, dignity and respect.

Human Dignity is the Basis of Fundamental Human Rights

At the heart of human rights is the belief that everyone should be treated equally and with dignity, no matter what their circumstances. This means that no one should be treated in an inhuman or degrading way. It also means that no one has the right to ‘own’ another person or force them to do something under the threat of punishment. It also means that everyone should have access to public services and the right to be treated reasonably and without prejudice by them. This applies to all public services. UK law includes a range of human rights which protect people from poor treatment and discrimination, and ensures they have equal and fair treatment.

The Human Dignity Trust, a registered charity, believes human dignity is unbreakable and must be respected and protected. The dignity of the human person is not only a fundamental right in itself, but constitutes the basis of fundamental rights in international law. Human dignity goes to the heart of human identity, including a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and intersex identity, hence the name of the trust.

Dignity Champions

The Department of Health are promoting Dignity Champions, “someone who believes passionately that being treated with dignity is a basic human right, not an optional extra. They believe that compassion must be at the heart of a truly person centred and efficient care services and are committed to doing their bit to achieve this.” An action pack has been put together by the Dignity in Care team to help Dignity Champions to understand UK Human Rights legislation and why it is essential in ensuring people are treated in a dignified way. There is a great deal of guidance already in place for the health and social care sector and they have attempted to bring as much of this together in one place as possible.

Also, the Equality and Human Rights Commission have produced an interactive programme called ‘Dignity Drive’. It is designed to look at what human rights mean in the context of everyday life, how they affect real people and why they are therefore so important.

The 10 Dignity Do’s

Compassion is truly demonstrated when we treat people with care and kindness and it can really make a difference in how treatment is received and the results it can produce. There are many things we can do to make a difference to patients and the care they receive. The National Dignity Council, has produced a list of things called the 10 Point Dignity Challenge (now the 10 Dignity Do's) which describe the values, and actions that high quality services that respect people's dignity should do:

  1. Have a zero tolerance of all forms of abuse.
  2. Support people with the same respect you would want for yourself or a member of your family.
  3. Treat each person as an individual by offering a personalised service.
  4. Enable people to maintain the maximum possible level of independence, choice and control.
  5. Listen and support people to express their needs and wants.
  6. Respect people's right to privacy.
  7. Ensure people feel able to complain without fear of retribution.
  8. Engage with family members and carers as care partners.
  9. Assist people to maintain confidence and positive self-esteem.
  10. Act to alleviate people's loneliness and isolation.

In support of this campaign people lots of people are signing up to become Dignity Champions. For more information please see the link below.


Dignity at The End, Ginny Tyler, QCS Expert Learning Disabilities Contributor

Dignity in Care

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

Alison Lowerson

GP Specialist

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