Patients’ rights to privacy and dignity in the NHS
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Patients’ rights to privacy and dignity in the NHS

Jay Woogara Senior tutor, Clinical negligence, European Institute of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Surrey, Guildford

Aim To determine the extent to which patients’ rights to privacy and dignity are respected in the NHS when judged against the seven factors of ‘privacy and dignity’ as outlined in the Essence of Care document (Department of Health (DH) 2001a).

Method An ethnographic methodology was used. Fieldwork took place over six months in three acute wards with surgical and medical patients in a large district NHS hospital, using non-participant observation, unstructured interviews with patients (n=55) and staff (n=12), and semi-structured interviews with patients (n=18) and staff (n=22). The culture and ward environment experienced by patients and staff in their everyday life were documented.

Findings Medical and nursing staff had little awareness of the importance of the Human Rights Act 1998 and government documents about patients’ privacy. They compromised the privacy and dignity of patients when judged against the Essence of Care benchmarks (DH 2001a).

Conclusion Educationalists, doctors, nurses and other practitioners should promote the importance of patients’ privacy and dignity within the NHS. This issue should be integrated into undergraduate and postgraduate healthcare curricula.

Nursing Standard. 19, 18, 33-37. doi: 10.7748/ns2005.


Peer review

This article has been subject to double blind peer review