Journal of Health Services Research & Policy, 17(2) pp 30-36


To examine: older people’s and their relatives’ views of dignified care; health care practitioners’ behaviours and practices in relation to dignified care; the occupational, organizational and cultural factors that impact on care; and develop evidence-based recommendations for dignified care.


An ethnography of four acute trusts in England and Wales involving semi-structured interviews with recently discharged older people (n = 40), their relatives (n = 25), frontline staff (n = 79) and Trust managers (n = 32), complemented by 617 hours of non-participant observation in 16 wards in NHS trusts.


‘Right Place – Wrong Person’ refers to the staffs’ belief that acute wards are not the ‘right place’ for older people. Wards were poorly-designed, confusing and inaccessible for older people; older people were bored through lack of communal spaces and activities and they expressed concern about the close proximity of patients of the opposite sex; staff were demoralised and ill-equipped with skills and knowledge to care for older people, and organizational priorities caused patients to be frequently moved within the system. In none of the wards studied was care either totally dignified or totally undignified. Variations occurred from ward to ward, in the same ward when different staff were on-duty and at different times of the day.


The failure to provide dignified care is often a result of systemic and organizational factors rather than a failure of individual staff and it is these that must be addressed if dignified care is to be ensured.