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More than half care home residents denied basic care, unpublished data shows

Posted May 10 2012 6:03pm

More than half of elderly and disabled people in care homes are being denied basic health services while staff are failing to do enough to preserve their dignity, according to an official review.

Some older people routinely have to wait up to three months for formal checks for painful conditions such as bed sores, according to figures from the health care watchdog.

A quarter were not given a choice of male or female staff to help them use the lavatory and more than a third of care homes surveyed admitted delays in getting medication to residents.

Campaigners blamed NHS bureaucrats showing a “lack of interest” and failing to provide expert assessments for conditions as basic as incontinence.

The findings emerged after almost 1,000 elderly people descended on Parliament in March to lobby their MPs calling for a radical overhaul of the social care system.

Paul Burstow, the care minister, signalled that a widely anticipated white paper of the future of social care had been delayed until next month insisting: “Getting it right is better than rushing it out and getting it wrong.”

Among those who addressed the crowd was the actor Tony Robinson, an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society, who said it was an “undeniable fact” that the system of social care is now in crisis with millions of people faced with paying large sums for care unlikely to meet their needs in old age.

The Archbishop of York also threw his support behind the lobby. Speaking during a visit to a care home he called for an overhaul of the care system to provide “dignity and peace of mind” to older people.

Fresh evidence of the failings in the system was detailed as a raft of previously unpublished data gathered by the health care regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC) was released.

It was drawn from the first ever nationwide review of how the needs of needs of care home residents across England are met.

The CQC report discloses that people suffering from incontinence have to wait more than two weeks for an assessment of their condition in almost 40 per cent of homes for the elderly surveyed.

But a separate detailed analysis of the CQC data carried out by the British Geriatrics Society, also found that more than 40 per cent specialist providers set themselves a target as long as 90 days to carry out such assessments.

Such delays have led to elderly people being denied the treatment they need or forced to use inappropriate incontinence products .

The CQC research also says that 30 per cent of nursing homes investigated had no clear policy on when to attempt to resuscitate patients who suffer a serious deterioration in their health.

In a quarter of homes, staff admitted they were unsure about the health care needs of those in their care.

The Geriatrics Society study showed that only 57 per cent of Primary care trusts ensure that all elderly people under their responsibility have access to key services including continence assessments, physiotherapy, pressure sore checks and mental health services. In 40 per cent of cases trusts set no specific targets to ensure the services were being delivered. The society concluded that this showed the PCTs had “limited interest” in services for care homes.

Its president, Prof Finbarr Martin, said: “What it shows is that there is a massive disconnect between what the NHS aspires to and what it actually delivers to people in care homes and they are the most vulnerable group of people. The issue is there is a negative about people in care homes. There is a nihilism about care homes that is completely unreasonable and unjustified.”

Michelle Mitchell, director of Age UK, said: “The majority of people living in care homes have profound and complex health care needs.

“The British Geriatrics Society’s CQC data analysis reveals that many thousands of residents are failing to receive basic geriatric and community health care from the NHS. Older people who live in care homes should have the same rights to NHS care as anyone else.”

A spokeswomam for the Department of Health said: “This report is a snapshot of care in 2010. It gives some important pointers for the 500 dignity inspections CQC will be conducting of care homes this year. “Improving medicine management in care homes is a priority for the Government. The Government is determined to spotlight and root out poor undignified care.”

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