A LANDMARK report has lifted the lid on the true extent of how the elderly are treated in hospitals and care homes across the country.

More than 40 organisations that work with the elderly, as well as doctors, nurses and carers, contributed to the report, which concluded that Britain is “failing the elderly”.

Campaigners in Hampshire, including broadcaster Esther Rantzen, have backed the “timely” report, while those providing the care insist many of the 48 recommendations are already in place.

The Commission on Improving Dignity in Care for Older People found that discrimination towards the elderly is “rooted” in British society, and older people are too often viewed as a “problem to be solved” rather than equals.

The commission sets out a blueprint for how the NHS and social care sector should tackle the issue and calls for a “major cultural shift”

covering training and regulation of care workers and medical staff.

Along with treating the elderly with greater respect, it says the use of language such as “old dear” and “chuck”

should be stopped.

Horror stories about elderly care have hit the headlines in Hampshire because of poor hospital food or failing nursing home care.

Last month Southampton Itchen MP John Denham compiled a 25-page dossier in which he claimed one-third of residential homes inspected in the city last year failed to meet the basic Government standards.

He said: “With our ageing society and more and more people having longer lives and needing extra care, if we don’t sort things out pretty quickly with funding, management and attitudes we will be facing a serious problem.”

Last year Southampton General Hospital came under fire for a string of failings in the care of an elderly patient in 2007.

Campaigners for the elderly have welcomed the latest report but warn that discrimination stems from deep-rooted attitudes in society.

Esther Rantzen, currently working towards launching a new helpline for the elderly called Silverline, told the Daily Echo: “It is really important we stop thinking of older people as a collection of disabilities and series of problems and instead think of them as having real value.”

She added that more needed to be done to get older people volunteering in hospitals and care homes.

Chris Perry, from Age Concern Hampshire, added: “In many ways it shows there is recognition of the problem, so I am reasonably hopeful it is moving up the agenda.

“It is crucial that staff have dementia training and it is very important to have an emphasis on getting to know the patient, because quite often staff see the cardboard cut-out and respond to them as an incompetent person.”

But hospital bosses in Southampton and those running Hampshire’s care homes argue that elderly care is a top priority and has been for some time.

Judy Gillow, direct of nursing at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Southampton General Hospital, insists measures are already in place to ensure the highest standards of care and that compassion is a key quality they look for when recruiting staff.

She said: “We are determined to ensure we select the right individuals from the very beginning and work closely with universities to assess potential students.”

Neil Sykes, chairman of Hampshire Care Association, believes the recommendations for training are already in place.

He said: “Care staff do a tremendous amount of training, which already includes how to respect a person’s dignity, communicate with them appropriately and dementia care.”